From Publishers Weekly
The tapestry of early American society is hung out for a fresh viewing in this ambitious historical novel of 1660s New Amsterdam. The English Turners are brother and sister, surgeon/barber and apothecary. Devoted to one another, Sally and Lucas quickly learn to make their way in the harsh, prosperous new world, aiding the Dutch governor Stuyvesant's family and making their reputation in the bargain. Then Lucas sells Sally in marriage to Jacob Van der Vries, a cruel, foolish physician, in order to save her life, Lucas says, but she believes it is to buy his lover's freedom to marry, and she never forgives him. This rift begins a feud between the Van der Vries (later Devreys) and Turners that lasts through the American Revolution. Colorful characters vie with historical figures for attention on this broad stage: there's Jennet, Sally's great-granddaughter, who marries a wealthy Jew; Caleb Devrey, Jennet's first cousin, who loved her as a boy, but becomes her bitterest enemy; Morgan, Jennet's son, a privateer and patriot; and Morgan's best friend and former slave, Cuffy, whose fate is bound to Morgan's by love, hate and the same woman the gorgeous Roisin Campbell aka Mistress Healsall. The healing profession is carried down through each generation of Turners and Devreys, and Swerling's descriptions of early operations with crude instruments are detailed and riveting. The city of New York is a character in its own right, but even it cannot compete with the richly drawn, well-rounded people Swerling creates. This engrossing, generously imagined tale deserves the large audience it should find at a time when the founding fathers reign triumphant in biography. (Oct.) Forecast: The size of this hefty debut may actually be a selling point, since it promises an epic tale. The colorful period jacket art should appeal to browsers, too.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
The early history of Manhattan is chronicled through six generations of a remarkable clan of surgeons, physicians, and apothecaries. Hounded out of England for illegally practicing surgery, gifted Lucas Turner and his sister, Sally, immigrate to the New World. Landing in New Amsterdam in 1661, Lucas employs a combination of daring and skill to establish his reputation as a surgeon, and Sally begins planting and gathering the herbs, plants, and flowers she needs to concoct the medicinal potions and drugs necessary for his practice. Though their future seems bright, the arrival of an unscrupulous and inept Dutch physician threatens both their security and their relationship. When Jacob Van der Vies succeeds in his vile blackmail effort, he causes an irreparable rift between the two siblings. For more than 100 years, the Turner and the Van der Vies branches of the family participate in both the evolution of the art and science of medicine and the transition of Manhattan from a fledgling colonial outpost to a bustling, thriving metropolis on the brink of revolution. Margaret FlanaganCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved