From the Nightstand: The Purchase by Linda Spalding

I’ve just read The Purchase by Linda Spalding. The novel opens with Daniel, a shunned Quaker, travelling with his orphaned children and his new wife from Pennsylvania to Virginia. In a decision that goes against his own beliefs, he buys a young slave, even trading away his beloved horse, Miss Patch, in the bargain. All of the novel’s action flows from this single bad decision. The writing is graceful and lyrical. Even the scenes that are horrifying are beautifully rendered. But The Purchase is not only about the horrors and the dehumanizing effects of slavery and of slave-owning, the novel also ventures into that territory with which every one of us is familiar: the amazing human capacity to rationalize and justify our most self-serving decisions and behaviours, even those that stand in stark opposition to our most deeply held principles. Sometimes, we even invoke God’s will in our justifications. This is a novel filled with flawed, i.e., deeply human, characters, and the author’s use of omniscient point of view is skillful in illuminating those characters. We understand their decisions even as we grieve for them. Highly recommended.


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