“Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America” Amy Belding Brown

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. ARC. To be published July 1, 2014. New American Library (Penguin Group). Includes “Author’s Note,” “A Conversation with Amy Belding Brown,” and “Questions for Discussion.”

FlightOfTheSparrowIn this extraordinary book, readers learn about Mary Rowlandson who was captured by a group of Indians after they raided her Massachusetts town in 1676. As a Puritan, she had been conditioned to fear, hate, despise and be otherwise prejudiced towards all things Indian. However Mary, now a slave of a female sachem, is expected to learn the ways of her Indian captives. She has no desire to live as a “savage” but, in time, comes to appreciate the Indian way of life.

Though forced to perform labor she found distasteful, her life as a slave was very different from the way she and her fellow Puritans treated their own African and Indian slaves. With freedom to roam, time to enjoy the wilderness she’d previously found scary, and the friendship of several Indians, Mary felt guilty for enjoying herself and is devastated to be ransomed back to Puritan life. Feeling half Indian, Mary finds life as a strait-laced Puritan to be more than she could bear.

Brown’s well-researched narrative shows the cruelty of the English Puritans towards their own and towards Africans and Indians who they considered “different.” She contrasts their behavior with the generosity and friendliness of the Indians who captured Mary. Metacomet (called King Philip by the English), the war that devastated his tribe, as well as important people from the time period all play important roles in Mary’s story.

A few years after her captivity, Mary wrote a narrative of her ordeal titled “The Sovereignty and Goodness of God” Though scholars hail it as an important work by a female which also solidified the way Puritans felt towards Indians, Brown believes Mary’s story was negatively rewritten by Increase Mather, an important Puritan preacher of the day, who inserted scripture and words to show the Puritan prejudicial point of view. Interestingly, the chapter on Rowlandson in “Women’s Indian Captivity Narratives” notes it cannot be proven he changed her narrative.

Recommended for Adult readers.

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