Wednesday, March 18, 7pm at Words Worth Books
Beth Powning has proven herself adept at making the past come alive in her fiction. With delicacy and finesse she brings atmosphere and authenticity to bear on each of her characters to the point that they seem to actually breathe. One such character is Mary Dyer who counts among the first American Quakers to practice in the New World.
Like many Puritans who wished to worship freely, Mary Dyer came to the British colony in New England in the 1630s. Unfortunately, the strictures of the Old World followed them. With measures enacted to restrict facets of worship, trade, and custom, the lingering spectre of patriarchal Christianity was set at odds against the “New Jerusalem” that came to be the hope of the settlers.
Mary befriends Anne Hutchinson, a midwife who leads increasingly popular Biblical discussion groups in her home. Ever watchful for heretics, they both come to the attention of the Puritan leadership, and when Mary births a deformed stillborn child, word spreads that her offspring is punishment for her support of Hutchinson’s sacrilegious Quaker beliefs. What follows is a story of persecution, despondency, banishment, and martyrdom.
A chronicling of the corrupting effects of power has long been a literary mainstay, and that perhaps is at the heart of some truly great books. Beth Powning has written a standout novel that finds its modern correlates in extremist movements throughout the world. How power germinates, how it is enforced, and where are found the blind-spots of those who decree morality; all are examined here with sensitivity, grace, historical accuracy, and high style.
Since her first appearance at Words Worth with her inimitable Hatbox Letters, Beth Powning has been a favourite around here and we are very pleased to welcome her back.