Author: Linda Spalding
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Pantheon; First Edition first Printing edition
(August 6, 2013)
While I haven't read this novel yet - it is most definitely on my TBR pile! It looks gripping and fantastic - sadly I ran out of year before I could get to it. So for you, my Dear Readers, here is the book description and excerpt. Go Check it out!
Winner of Canada's 2012 Governor General's Award for Fiction
this provocative and starkly beautiful historical novel, a Quaker
family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where slaves
are the only available workers and where the family’s values and beliefs
are sorely tested.
In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, recently widowed
and shunned by his fellow Quakers when he marries his young servant
girl to help with his five small children, moves his shaken family down
the Wilderness Road to the Virginia/Kentucky border. Although determined
to hold on to his Quaker ways, and despite his most dearly held belief
that slavery is a sin, Daniel becomes the owner of a young boy named
Onesimus, setting in motion a twisted chain of events that will lead to
tragedy and murder, forever changing his children’s lives and driving
the book to an unexpected conclusion.
A powerful novel of
sacrifice and redemption set in a tiny community on the edge of the
frontier, this spellbinding narrative unfolds around Daniel’s struggle
to maintain his faith; his young wife, Ruth, who must find her own way;
and Mary, the eldest child, who is bound to a runaway slave by a
terrible secret. Darkly evocative, The Purchase is as hard-edged
as the realities of pioneer life. Its memorable characters, drawn with
compassion and depth, are compellingly human, with lives that bring
light to matters of loyalty and conscience.
Daniel looked over at the daughter who sat where a wife should sit.
Cold sun with a hint of snow. The new wife rode behind him like a
stranger while the younger children huddled together, coughing and
clenching their teeth. The wind shook them and the wagon wounded the
road with its weight and the river gullied along to one side in its
heartless way. It moved east and north while Daniel and all he had in
the world went steadily the other way, praying for fair game and tree
limbs to stack up for shelter. “We should make camp while it’s light,”
said the daughter, who was thirteen years old and holding the reins. But
Daniel wasn’t listening. He heard a wheel grating and the river
gullying. He heard his father – the memory of that lost, admonishing
voice – but he did not hear his daughter, who admonished in much the
Some time later the child pulled the two horses to a
halt, saying again that they must make camp while the sky held its
light. The new wife arranged dishes on the seat of the wagon, and the
child, whose name was Mary, pulled salted meat out of a trunk at the
back. It was their fifth day on the road and such habits were
developing. By morning there would be snow on the ground, the fire would
die, and the children would have to move on without warm food or drink.
They would take up their places in the burdened wagon while Daniel’s
fine Pennsylvania mares shied and balked and turned in their tracks. A
man travelling on horseback might cover a hundred miles in three days,
but with a wagon full of crying or coughing children, the mountainous
roads of Virginia were a sorrow made of mud and felled trees and
devilish still-growing pines.
The children, being young and
centred on their own thoughts, were only dimly aware of the hazards of
the road and of the great forest hovering. They hardly noticed the
mountains, which were first gentle and then fierce, because all of it
came upon them as gradually as shapes in an unhappy dream. The mountains
only interrupted a place between land and sky. The forest got thicker
and darker on every side. They had, within a few weeks, watched their
mother die, given up home and belongings, landscape and habits, school
and friends. They had watched people become cold to them, shut and lock
doors to deny them entrance. How were they to understand? There were
other wagons leaving Pennsylvania and going south and west, but none
were so laden with woe as the one that carried the five children and the
widower and his new bride.
Daniel spoke of the trees and told
his children which were the yellow pine and which the white oak. He
pointed to a deer standing still as vegetation in the bushes, but he
made no effort to hunt or to fish for the beings that swam in the
streams. As a Quaker, he did not own a gun and would depend on his store
of food until he could raise his own crops. It was November, an
ill-advised time for travel, but in spite of rain and cold winds and
sore throats, he looked down at the rushing river and told himself that
he had no choice. The Elders had cast him out. He had been disowned and
now he was rudderless, homeless, alone on a crowded road. He did not
count the new wife or the children as companions. They were plants
uprooted before they had formed into shape or type. They were adrift on
this high road above a river that divided them from everything they had
come to expect. “When I inherit we will have a good piece of land,” his
dear Rebecca had said whenever he’d chafed at his dependence on her
family. She had always said it and he had eventually decided there was
no shame in having a wealthy wife. He had spent twelve years working for
the tobacco firm owned by his father-in-law, but then Rebecca had
sickened after her fifth childbirth. All so sudden, it had been, and
everyone bewildered while Daniel stared into the flame of his wife’s
bedside candle, trying to understand. Neglecting his work and forgetting
to eat or wash, he gave over the details of the children’s daily care
to a fifteen-year-old girl he had brought in from the almshouse, an
orphan. Her name was Ruth Boyd.
Mother Grube fussed in the
kitchen while Rebecca lay in her four-poster bed holding her husband’s
sleeve. The entire Grube family kept arriving and departing without
announcement, but when Rebecca died, on the twenty-first day after
Joseph’s birth, they seemed to evaporate. The sisters were married, with
large families of their own, and the parents were elderly. Alone in his
study, while neighbours brought food to the kitchen door, Daniel wept
and prayed and waited to learn what was required of him.
shall cause scandal by keeping the servant girl in thy house,” his
father admonished. “Thee must find a proper mother for thy orphans.”
Boyd is also an orphan,” Daniel had replied. It was a listless argument
nevertheless. He had taken her from the almshouse on a bond of
indenture and did not feel he could return her. He said simply, “I
cannot take her back there.” He thought of the way she had run out to
his wagon wearing a torn plaid dress and boots so old they were split at
the sides. Her cape was unmended, her felt hat unclean.
“And when thee is written out of the meeting for keeping an unmarried girl?” his father had asked. “Then where will thee go?”
“I will go to Virginia.” It was a muttering, a threat. “Land of tolerance.”
“Land of slavery.” Daniel’s father had a mason’s heavy hands. “And does thee know what James Madison has done there?”
“Yes, Father. But it is only a very mild law which holds . . .”
holds the constitution in contempt,” the old man spluttered, “although
the Virginians are intent on breeding presidents and, in fear of
justified reprisal by the Federalists, are building a militia.” Daniel’s
father had taken his hat off and was fanning his face. “Next they will
decide to leave the Union altogether.”
“There is religious
freedom . . .” In Brandywine, the Elders sat in judgment, measuring each
person’s response to the voice of God within. Discipline. The sense of
“And no paid labour to be had,” his father had stated gloomily.
shall labour for myself.” This was said with a hint of sinful pride.
“Thee once quoted John Woolman to me that if the leadings of the spirit
were attended to, more people would be engaged in the sweet employment
of husbandry.” Daniel had gone out to his horse then, remounted, and
tried to imagine himself as different from the quiet, internalized
person he had always been. He would make himself worthy of farm work,
although he had so far never lifted a hand in such labour. He would find
rolling land and a fast-running creek. He would drive his children
through the Blue Ridge Mountains and by the time they found a homeplace
none of them would look back. They had already crossed the Potomac at
Evan Watkins’s ferry. They had pushed on into Virginia, the old
Commonwealth. The children would see this as adventure instead of exile.
they passed the first plantation, Mary pulled hard at the reins. “There
will surely be someone here to suckle poor baby,” she said, thinking of
Luveen, who had raised her mother and then all of them but who would
not come with them to Virginia, where she could be mistaken for a slave.
There’s a betta world a’comin . . . It was something Luveen used to
But Daniel would not see his child nourished by slavery.
He turned and lifted the baby from his cradle and put him into the
stepmother’s empty arms.
They spent a cold night in a roadside
field with the children huddled in the wagon and Daniel on the hard
ground underneath. He heard nine-year-old Isaac ask his brother if he
was afraid of going where Indians might take his scalp. He heard Mary
singing Luveen’s lullaby. He heard Ruth Boyd lift the baby from his
cradle in order to feed him milk from the cow that had come along on
this journey as unwillingly as the rest, and he turned on his side and
covered his ears and thought about Joseph fleeing out of Egypt with a
young, chaste wife. For twelve years he had made himself valuable by
poring over deeds and other documents and he surely knew enough about
land and its value to find the right location for a new home where he
could bring his family back to respectability. These were his thoughts
as he lay on the ground under an ill-equipped wagon, listening to his
Excerpted from The Purchase
by Linda Spalding. Copyright © 2013 by Linda Spalding. Excerpted by
permission of Pantheon, a division of Random House LLC. All rights
reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without
permission in writing from the publisher.
About Linda Spalding
was born in Kansas and lived in Mexico and Hawaii
before immigrating to Canada in 1982. She is the author of three
critically acclaimed novels, Daughters of Captain Cook, The Paper Wife,
and (with her daughter Esta) Mere. Her nonfiction includes The Follow
(Canadian title, short-listed for the Trillium Book Award and the
Pearson Writers’ Trust Prize, and published in the US as A Dark Place in
the Jungle), Riska: Memories of a Dayak Girlhood (shortlisted for the
Kiriyama Prize), and Who Named the Knife.
She has been awarded the Harbourfront Festival Prize for her
contribution to the Canadian literary community. The Purchase received
Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award and its Rogers Writers’ Trust
Fiction Prize. Spalding lives in Toronto, where she is the editor of Brick magazine.
Visit Linda's website at www.lindaspalding.com.