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Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America Paperback – July 1, 2014
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“Breathes life into a vital but oft-neglected chapter of our history. Amy Belding Brown has turned an authentic drama of Indian captivity into a compelling, emotionally gripping tale that is at once wrenching and soulful.”—*Eliot Pattison, author of the Mystery of Colonial America series
“A mesmerizing tale of survival and awakening...The deftly depicted cross cultural friendship reminded me of Caleb’s Crossing and the fast-paced story kept me up turning pages.”—Donna Thorland, author of The Turncoat and The Rebel Pirate
“Brown’s voice transforms a remote period into a fresh and immediate world and, in Mary, gives us a heroine who is broken by sorrow but determined to survive. This is a novel about the true meaning of faith and freedom.”—Kelly O’Connor McNees, author of The Island of Doves and The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott
“The story of Mary Rowlandson is the story of one of the darkest episodes in our nation’s history, and yet Amy Belding Brown manages to turn it into a soaring tale of light and hope…The Flight of the Sparrow reminds us of the promise of America and that the fulfillment of that promise relies on every human heart.”—Sally Cabot Gunning, author of Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard, The Widow’s War, Bound, and The Rebellion of Jane Clarke
“In this amazingly written and deeply researched book, Amy Belding Brown delivers 17th-century Massachusetts to the reader with a prose that springs from the page and wraps you in wonder. Flight of the Sparrow showcases the author’s imagination bound by her dedication to historical fact....This is a book for both readers of literary fiction as well as those who love a well-researched work of historical fiction.”—Historical Novel Society
Praise for Mr. Emerson’s Wife
“Amy Belding Brown has brought her back to life in a novel that glitters with intelligence and authenticity.”—Geraldine Brooks, author of March
“In this extraordinary book, Amy Belding Brown has brought the nineteenth century to life...A soaring imaginative leap, this book combines detailed history with a page-turning illicit love story. It’s a look at a rich moment in American history and a great read, a rare combination.”—Susan Cheever, author of My Name Is Bill and Note Found in a Bottle
“A beautiful work...It is quite refreshing to see that ambition backed up with a quality of writing that bears up to the weight of its subject matter.”—Bret Lott, author of Jewel and A Song I Knew by Heart
About the Author
- Item Weight : 10.7 ounces
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0451466691
- ISBN-13 : 978-0451466693
- Publisher : Berkley; 1st Edition (July 1, 2014)
- Product Dimensions : 5.48 x 0.8 x 8.23 inches
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #14,697 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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Based on true events, Brown details Mary's miles-long march through deep snow, holding her wounded 6-year-old Sarah all the while. Naturally, she's terrified, knowing only what she's heard of Indians' savagery in the local rumors.
But while Mary does endure hardships, life among the Indians as a slave, ironically, provides more freedom than when she was actually free. The Indians spend time in nature and solitude. They laugh and love their children openly - all things that Mary, as a Puritan minister's wife, has never known.
Is it possible for a white woman to live among the Indians by choice? And if she can't, how on earth can Mary ever hope to fit in among the English again, having glimpsed an entirely different way of life?
Brown's skillful blend of historical fact with her own details of time and place - along with the ubiquitous feelings that are undoubtedly found in women of every time and place - comprise a book well worth reading.
After her capture, she is at first shocked by the cultural differences of her captors. As time goes on, however, Rowlandson realizes she has more freedom as a slave of the tribe than she did before her capture. She is touched by the open affection and kindness tribal members have for children, in contrast to the Puritan strict discipline that included whipping children. Make no mistake. Life is hard as the tribe moves to escape British soldiers. They are often hungry and cold. But the burdens are shared equally.
After almost four months, she is returned to her husband who has raised money for her ransom. She is asked to write about her captivity. Belding Brown imagines Rowlandson's adjustment, not just to her stern husband, but to a woman's subservience in general. And now Rowlandson can clearly see the hyprocrisy of her society and especially those who profess Christian values but show little or no kindness, only judgement. Even her account of her captivity is skewed by the man who edits it.
Belding Brown paints a compelling picture of 17th century life in colonial America. We are there during Rowlandson's dramatic captivity, and we are there as she reconciles conflicting values and experience. We hear Rowlandson's complex voice and strong spirit. This is a fine and moving historical novel.
First off – Flight of the Sparrow has a lot of graphic violence. If you can’t handle that sort of thing, I would advise you probably not read this book because it certainly doesn’t shy away from the shocking and gruesome.
Overall, Brown’s tale is fast-paced and there are often several chapters that are merely chunks of summarized action which I didn’t particularly enjoy. I prefer a style where the narrative has room to slow down and open up, allowing the readers to live presently in the scenes rather than witness several important events rushing by as merely being glossed over. In simplistic terms, there are far too many large chunks of story that are all tell and no show. Although this stylistic choice was disappointing for me, I will say that there were several moments where I was utterly engrossed. I found myself feeling this way mainly during the months of Mary’s captivity and the time she spends forging relationships with the Nipmocs. There is a beautiful and tender, yet tragic relationship that comes out of this time that will leave you yelling at your book–but I won’t discuss that too much since I don’t want to spoil it.
While unlikely the case in real life, Brown’s Rowlandson seems to find her true voice and freedom while enslaved. Her time with the Nipmocs forces her to realize that she was more a slave as a woman within Puritan society and as the wife to a rigid preacher husband. While Mary struggles with her Christian faith after her “redemption,” she finds strength and truth in the compassion and empathy she has for others’ who have been enslaved. In essence, Mary’s eyes would have never been opened if it weren’t for her capture and enslavement. Sometimes, it really does take the act of walking in someone else’s shoes to gain empathy and compassion otherwise lacking.
Top reviews from other countries
What is the purpose of a historical novel? In my opinion, non-fiction explores the dry "truths", the statistics, the dates, the consequences of people's actions. A historical novel explores the soul of individuals within that frame of events, and should create a mirror that reflects our behaviours, thoughts, and ideas today so that we may connect and relate, but not jar us from an authentically built world in the past.
This novel sucked me in and did what the best novels ought to do: it made me reflect, consider, think. When I was forced to come up for air, I did nothing but talk about it as I was still deep in the fictional world's embrace, deeply invested in what was happening with the characters (and could hardly wait to come back to it).
Mary's personal journey, as told here--as interpreted and explored here by the author--is absolutely and wholly relatable to me. Having lived in four different countries myself, I understand how much can be absorbed and processed in a short three months when completely immersed in a new culture. And it does feel like years have passed. The culture shock and Mary's relentless questioning of what she believed to once know is--even according to science--wholly plausible.
As for the "feministic tones", I shy away from labeling for the sake of convenience and category. Women have questioned their confining roles from the beginning of time and especially when faced with a culture that does things "differently". Here, the novel has simply called that theme "freedom"; both subtly and intentionally signalled with different objects: the sparrow, the cage, the confining clothing, the deerskin dress, the wilderness, the cultivated garden. That theme is consistent throughout the book.
Writing from Mary's point-of-view, the author has managed to give her protagonist an authentic and believable voice. It stays on point, it's well-researched in language, and well executed. In fact, the entire book sings of an incredible amount of hard work and careful consideration. When I come away from studying meaning, technique and style, however, what I celebrate most is the great story this book has to tell. AND all the new stuff I learned!