The Purchase: Book summary and reviews of The Purchase by Linda Spalding

The Purchase

by Linda Spalding

The Purchase
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2013
    320 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

Winner of Canada's 2012 Governor General's Award for Fiction

In this provocative and starkly beautiful historical novel, a Quaker family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where slaves are the only available workers and where the family's values and beliefs are sorely tested.

In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, recently widowed and shunned by his fellow Quakers when he marries his young servant girl to help with his five small children, moves his shaken family down the Wilderness Road to the Virginia/Kentucky border. Although determined to hold on to his Quaker ways, and despite his most dearly held belief that slavery is a sin, Daniel becomes the owner of a young boy named Onesimus, setting in motion a twisted chain of events that will lead to tragedy and murder, forever changing his children's lives and driving the book to an unexpected conclusion.

A powerful novel of sacrifice and redemption set in a tiny community on the edge of the frontier, this spellbinding narrative unfolds around Daniel's struggle to maintain his faith; his young wife, Ruth, who must find her own way; and Mary, the eldest child, who is bound to a runaway slave by a terrible secret. Darkly evocative, The Purchase is as hard-edged as the realities of pioneer life. Its memorable characters, drawn with compassion and depth, are compellingly human, with lives that bring light to matters of loyalty and conscience.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"References to Virgil and the Old Testament imbue Spalding's raw, powerful writing with some hope that every human success simply requires faith, but the bleak story lacks enough space to process the endless supply of tragedy." - Publishers Weekly

"Too slow-paced and dark for the casual reader, but a serious, probing look at the interaction of character and environment during a seminal period in American history." - Kirkus

"As readers follow a gritty cast of characters facing prejudice at every turn, they will question the cost of survival. Winner of the Canada Council for the Arts 2012 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction, this tragic historical novel of the American Southern frontier will appeal to readers who appreciated Edward P. Jones's The Known World or Toni Morrison's Beloved." - Library Journal

"[Readers] will find themselves immersed in a powerful mood, a feeling of something dark and brooding and yet bracing, in one of the finest historical novels in recent years." - Philip Marchand, The National Post

"With The Purchase, Spalding places a contemporary spin on the traditional novel of the antebellum South: Frontier adventure meets plantation romance meets slave narrative - and to haunting effect... It reads like a disturbing dream imbued with the power of myth." - The Toronto Globe and Mail

"A complex and engaging novel that is Hardy-esque in its examination of the consequences of the purchase of a young African man... a powerful novel of personal tragedy that ends in a hopeful way." - Ottawa Citizen

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Reader Reviews

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martha borkowski

the price of bad choices
Spaulding's novel, The Purchase, is a barebones portrayl of frontier life in 1800 near the Virginia/Kentucky border. A well-meaning but inept Quaker, widowed and the father of five, struggles through out with his faith, his misfortune, and his own repeated bad choices. the resulting story is both gripping and yet depressing. it is a tale where both nature and nurture conspire to defeat many of the characters best efforts to succeed. readers of historical fiction will be pleased with the depth of accurate detail, and fiction readers will appreciate Spaulding's same gift for detail as she crafts her characters.

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