Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Friday, April 25, 2008

Sally Gunning's new novel is Bound to move your heart

When Alice Cole was still a child,her father sold her as an indentured servant to the Morton family upon their arrival in Boston,Mass,after a long journey by boat from England that claimed the lives of Alice's mother and her two younger brothers.

The Mortons treated her well,almost like one of the family. Nabby,their daughter considered Alice to be her best friend and when Nabby grew up and married Emery Verley during the year 1764,Alice went with them to be their servant for the couple's new household. Alice's indenture was given as a wedding gift to the newly weds,even tho at age fifteen, she only had about three years left to serve on it.

Verley seemed to feel that having Alice and Nabby was sort of a two for one deal;a wife and a mistress side by side. His forced sexual attentions on Alice(and threats of punishment and worse conditions if she complained) became more and more frequent,to the point of not even trying to conceal it from his wife. Nabby turned against Alice,out of jealousy,and when she couldn't get her husband to sent Alice back to her father's house,Nabby went after her with a hot poker.

Alice could take it no more,so she fled one morning and by stowing away on a boat,made her way to the village of Satucket in Cape Cod.

There,she receives help and sympathy from Widow Berry,an independent woman who insists upon living life in her own way,and Eben Freeman,a local attorney who is active in the growing political movement against unfair taxation by England towards the colonies and is a close friend and adviser to the widow.

Afraid of being sent back to Verley,Alice gives her last name as Baker and tells both of her new friends very little about her true past. The widow and Mr. Freeman can tell that there is more to Alice's story but are willing to let her gain their trust and reveal all in her own time.

Unfortunately,that time is growing briefer as Alice realizes that she is pregnant and is faced with a myriad of decisions about what to do about it. For awhile she stalls and dwells in denial,but that only lasts for so long;the undeniable reality of the situation catches up with Alice and brings her into the eyes of the law,for more than one reason. Alice has to not only give her trust willingly,she must also face her own worst fear head on,dealing with Verley.

Some of the characters in Sally Gunning's Bound were first featured in her earlier historical novel,The Widow's War. It isn't necessary to have read one before the other(altho you may want to check out The Widow's War after completing Bound)as Gunning easily creates a compelling and very realistic portrait of a young woman trapped by her circumstances and the rigid morals and class structures of her time.

Alice's trauma,fears and confusion about her situation are not only understandable but as timely as a Law & Order:SVU episode. Gunning has a sure and steady hand with her prose,keeping things simple but not plain. The most fanciful parts of the novel are the descriptions of Alice's dreams,which are vividly beautiful and terrifying at times. Gunning's down to earth style suits the salt of the earth people on the pages to perfection.

Bound is on sale now,and if you are looking for a smartly written historical novel that feels as real as today's headlines,your quest is done.

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