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by Jan de Hartog

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-679-41636-6
Publisher: Pantheon

Twelve years after The Lamb's War and more than 20 after the bestselling Peaceable Kingdom, de Hartog returns to complete his trilogy on Quaker life—in a lively tale of passion and conviction set in the Midwest of the 1830's. Mordecai Monk is a portly English chocolatier who discovers a knack for impassioned speech when he learns of his illegitimacy with his mother's dying words. Having thrown quiet Quaker meetings into an uproar at home, he carries his fervent message of love and redemption to America, where he finds an equal in intensity in Lydia Best, a teacher at an Indiana Indian school run by the Society. Mordecai's call for personal salvation, which seems to be heard only by the women in his audiences, is upstaged by hers for action when she sees the US Cavalry and civilian drovers herding despondent groups of Shawnee like beasts from their ancestral Woodlands home to the open prairie. The school also becomes enmeshed in a plot to free fugitive slaves, captured when its position as an Underground Railroad station was compromised, and Lydia loses her job when the plan is uncovered—but not before she brings Mordecai to see the error of his ways. He walks off with the Shawnee to bear witness to their suffering and is ignored by them; but with Lydia at his side, the two eventually find acceptance- -especially after Mordecai uses his acting abilities to suggest that he has healing powers. Both are killed in a subsequent riverboat explosion, but their work continues as a mission to the Shawnee quickly takes shape, with unanimous blessings from the previously splintered Society. Amusing and touching, with a keen sense of the historical moment: an intimate story of the wondrous, inscrutable ways in which men and women are moved to find fulfillment by caring for others.