Monday, August 27, 2012
Book Review - My Enemy's Tears: The Witch of Northampton
Like many young girls, Karen Vorbeck Williams grew up hearing tales about witches and enjoyed the delicious fright they gave her. Except one thing made them hit a little bit closer to home: a witch in her family history.
These stories, told by her grandmother, instilled a lifelong fascination in Karen with her ancestor and the witchcraft trial she endured long before the infamous Salem witch trials that took place in the same region.
After 20 years of research and writing, Karen put her family history into novel form. My Enemy’s Tears: The Witch of Northampton is based on the historical record of her 11th great-grandmother Mary Bliss Parsons and Mary’s arch enemy Sarah Lyman Bridgeman. Their lives trace the journey of not only the English Separatists to the New World and the growth of the first settlements along the Connecticut River from Hartford and Springfield to Northampton, but the lives of women in 17th century New England as well.
The Puritans in Hartford find the wilderness a terrifying place full of warring natives, pestilences and floods, blazing comets, earthquakes and hurricanes—all portents of God’s anger - or a witch’s meddling curse.
The two women spend their married lives in the villages of Springfield and Northampton, where a youthful disagreement festers into a reason to hate and then fear each other. In a time when a woman’s worth and a man’s wealth were counted in sons, Sarah’s sons died in infancy as Mary gave birth to six sons, one after another. Sarah believed that since Mary was a witch, she made a trade-off with the Devil – her living children for Sarah’s dead children. As the years pass, Sarah accuses Mary of murder by witchcraft, prompting a trial before the Court of Assistants in Boston in 1675—17 years before the Salem witch trials.
My Enemy’s Tears looks at two lives—one blessed and one cursed—and the transcendent power of forgiveness.
KAREN VORBECK WILLIAMS, an 11th generation descendant of Mary Bliss Parsons, heard the story of the witch of Northampton at her grandmother’s knee. She has lived in New England for more than 35 years where she found the inspiration, settings and spirit for her first published novel.
My Take on the Book
This story was a powerful tale of two strong female characters that the author did an amazing job of developing. The story weaved an intricate diorama of society in the late 1600's and you truly feel the superstition ripe in the air of the society. You can also cut the tension with a knife. The story was gripping and well written and I found myself wanting to put aside other tasks to work on getting further in this book (that's why I was able to get through it as quickly as I did). The book paints a picture of the Puritan society that makes you understand that religion was key to everything and any deviation was seen as sacrilegious, and at the end of the 1600's this did not bode well for people, as they were many times then deemed witches or warlocks. The author's personal familial story plays into this, especially in the way that she writes, and I believe it makes the story even stronger because of it. Overall, this was a wonderful story that transports you back in time and keeps you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end.
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