Rebecca DeMarino explores seventeenth century England and America in her colonial debut. Anglican Mary Langton agrees to marry the recent widower Barnabas Horton, even though he is a Puritan and his heart still belongs to his dead wife. A young woman who never intended to leave the village where her family has dwelt for centuries, Mary is shocked to discover her husband has long been planning to pack up his family and move to New England, where he can be part of building a church where people may worship freely. Mary desires to be loved by her husband, but nothing she does seems to earn her a place in his heart. Will abandoning her family for the unknown across the sea be enough, or will she always be just a replacement mother for his two sons?
I enjoy a generous dose of history in the historical novels I read, and it was fun not only to learn about the early colonization of America, but also to discover that the story itself is based on the lives of the author's ancestors. The setting described is certainly one of the lesser-explored ages - the mid-1600's England and America, which makes for a fresh new world to explore. DeMarino does a great job describing village life, including the duties of the village baker. It is fun to read about daily life in another time and place.
Mary starts out headstrong and a bit immature, and though she never completely gives up her headstrong ways, she matures as a wife. She continually puts her husband's dreams ahead of hers, even to the extent of leaving a relatively safe, loving home for the New England wilderness. Her selflessness in their marriage made me want to strangle Barnabas at times - why can't he realize the gem of a woman he is married to? He is a good man, with strong faith and unwavering convictions, but his blindness in this area is frustrating. There comes a time to move on, and it is well past!
Enduring the pain of childlessness is such a burden for Mary; I wanted Barnabas to say something like, "You are more important to me than many sons," but he keeps waiting for a child, abandoning her to her insecurities. I felt for Mary in her years of waiting on the Lord for a child . . . and waiting, and waiting, and waiting; in everyone asking her so frequently if she is pregnant, and her heart breaking anew each time because the answer is no. Whether it be pregnancy, employment, marriage, or whatever, it is really hard to want something, to be waiting for it, and to be expecting it, yet it never come; then when everyone knows about that desire and asks about it, generally out of well-intentioned hearts, it serves as a continual reminder of one's failures, hurting all the more. The author conveys well that pain of unfulfilled expectation and how hard it is to hope when expectations are not met.
It is unusual for a novel to cover such an expanse of years, but it fits the story, rendering the heartache the more poignant and the joy all the sweeter. I wish it were a little longer to add more detail as years go by!
Thank you Revell for providing a free copy of the novel for the purpose of review; I was not required to make it positive, and all opinions are my own.
1. A Place in His Heart
2. To Capture Her Heart