Kreis’ (The Labyrinth, 2014) historical novel explores the dangers and rewards of Colonial North America, as seen through the eyes of a Puritan woman.
This book follows Lizzie Price as she moves from a settlement in Deerfield, Massachusetts, to Native American camps to the bustling city of Montreal over the course of her eventful life. She moves from Northampton to Deerfield with her family at the age of 13 but becomes unhappy with the trappings of a Puritan lifestyle. She resists her community’s disdain for fun, as well as its emphasis on marriage; instead, she’d rather read her secretly obtained books or take a swim at her secret place in the Deerfield River. She’s in danger of being labeled a spinster at 19 when she begins a romance with Andrew Stevens, also known as “Skagit,” a fur trader who, as a child, was taken from his settler family by Native Americans. However, the couple’s happiness is short-lived. Soon after Andrew changes his lifestyle to become respectable enough to marry Lizzie, Native Americans raid Deerfield. They rip Lizzie away from her new husband and kill or capture most of her family and her fellow Deerfield residents. Lizzie’s Native American master eventually entrusts her to the care of Catholic nuns in Montreal; there, she must try to put her broken community back together and decide what the trajectory of her life will be. Kreis’ historical research comes through clearly in this novel, which shows various aspects of daily Colonial life in great detail and offers maps to provide context for the characters’ travels. He also paints clear pictures of various Colonial locations, and readers, who may only be familiar with famous Colonies such as Plymouth and Jamestown, will appreciate its broader glimpse into pre-revolutionary North America. However, there are occasional passages that uncomfortably focus on teenage characters’ sexual development—specifically Lizzie’s. Readers may also find themselves quickly overwhelmed by the novel’s ponderous length and large cast of characters.
An informative but often plodding tale that’s more likely to appeal to history buffs than casual readers.