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FLIGHT OF THE SPARROW: A NOVEL OF EARLY AMERICA BY AMY BELDING BROWN: BOOK REVIEW

by hmhibbit, July 27, 2014

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4 star rating
Flight of the Sparrow
By Amy Belding Brown
ISBN# 9780451466693
Author’s Website:  http://amybeldingbrown.com

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele

flight-of-the-sparrow-amy-belding-brownSynopsis:

She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness has now become her home. She can interpret the cries of birds. She has seen vistas that have stolen away her breath. She has learned to live in a new, free way…. 

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson is captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the on-going bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson, Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meaning of freedom, faith, and acceptance. (Goodreads)

Review:

Flight of the Sparrow is a mesmerizing retelling of real-life Puritan Mary Rowlandson’s capture and three month enslavement by Indians during King Philip’s War.  Mary, the wife of the town’s minister and daughter of a wealthy landowner, watches in horror as her home burns and friends, family, and parishioners are slaughtered during an ambush one winter morning in 1676.  She and her three children are kidnapped, the youngest child mortally wounded and the other two sent to a different Indian village than Mary.  She now faces life as a servant to one of the village’s leaders, unsure of the fate of her children and husband, and if her husband, if still living, will be able to find and save her.  She had been indoctrinated in the Puritan beliefs that God’s will determines all and that Indians are nothing more than savage heathens.  It was a rigid, harsh, cold way of life where emotions were not expressed, everything was a sign of God’s will and/or punishment, and everyone passed judgment on each other.  However, the longer she lives among the Indians, the more she appreciates their way of life, their freedom, moments of kindness, and freely shown affection to their children.

She spends the winter months with the Indians.  It is a nomadic season for them, rife with starvation and illness, and as the number of dead rise, the natives…

“lament that the grandmothers and babes always die first, as if the spirits of war wish to strip the people of both their wisdom and their hope.” (p. 135-36)

When the time comes for Mary to be ransomed back to her people, she finds herself conflicted, questioning the “rightness” of her Puritan ideals and her ability to assimilate back into her English society.  Indeed, she is faced with a gossiping community, a husband who believes her tainted, and a sense of being stifled (like a caged sparrow) and pining for what her life might have been.

Thus is Mary’s journey – a story of loss, sacrifice, love, freedom, and survival, her personal crisis of faith.  I felt her grief at the death of her child, her hunger, her feelings of being abandoned by God, her growing love for James Printer, an English speaking Indian, her changing opinions about the life she has always accepted as truth, her contempt for her judgmental neighbors, and her wish for freedom.

I read a lot of historical fiction, but not much from the early America time period, and I found the Native American culture fascinating.  I felt for the Indians, their…

“dying nation, their towns burned, their lands appropriated, their very bodies starved and crushed and sold.  All in the name of God.” (p.322)

Brown’s writing is terse, easy to read, and her storytelling engrossing.  The subject matter has obviously been well researched, and I came away from reading this wanting to know more about these real people, though I realize that all but the bare bones of the story is fictionalized.

Flight of the Sparrow is a thought provoking novel and stays with the reader long after the last page is read.  To me, that is a sign of a quality book.  I highly recommend this for fans of early America and Native Americans, historical fiction, and readers of Eliot Pattison.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*

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