One day a couple of weeks ago, I got an email from the library telling me that an ebook I had ordered was available to me. I had no recollection of requesting Flight of the Sparrow, by Amy Belding, so I can’t tell you what attracted me to the book.
Perhaps it was the title which I find to be lovely. More likely, upon coming across the title somehow, the plot featuring a Puritan woman captured by Indians and held for many months, well, how could I resist? Captured by Indians!
It wasn’t until I began reading the book that the icing was placed on the cake – the story is based on fact. There really was a Puritan woman named Mary Rowlandson who lived in the 1600s and was captured by Indians and so forth. Historical fiction. Indians. A great title. It had it all.
I’m happy to report that Flight of the Sparrow really did have it all, at least as far as I am concerned.
Mary Rowlandson was the dutiful and faithful wife of a minister who believed that everything that happened was God’s will — predestination. He also maintained the common belief of the time that women are subservient to their husbands in all things and that anyone who didn’t share their identical Christian beliefs were nothing more than heathens.
The novel paints a clear picture of what it was like to live in this severe Puritan culture, just who benefited and who lost. Flight of the Sparrow also paints a graphic picture of the struggles between the Indians and the English settlers who were changing everything about their way of life.
Mary’s husband Joseph is away on business when her household and surrounding community is savagely attacked by Indians. Many are brutally killed (the scene is extremely graphic), and Mary and three of her children are kidnapped. Two of the children are whooshed away to places unknown, and the one who stays with Mary dies soon after.
Mary lives with the Indians for almost a year, and though she undergoes many hardships, she also grows used to the freedom of life as an Indian’s slave. She is finally ransomed back to her husband eight or so months after her capture, as are her two remaining children. The novel presents a really good picture of the difficulty Mary has in trying to fit her experiences in Indian life back into the rigid, yet more familiar, life as a Puritan wife.
Flight of the Sparrow has a bit of a romantic storyline, but one that I found to be fairly realistic. No barechested men or ripped bodices. In fact, much to everyone’s surprise (and apparent disappointment), Mary is not ravaged (or defiled, as the Puritans put it) at all.
The novel presents a pretty honest and fair picture of the treatment of the Indians by White settlers. They Indians aren’t necessarily presented as kind and gentle heroes, but the taking away of their freedom and land is pretty straightforward.
I loved the book’s ending.
Lovers of historical fiction and western stories will enjoy Flight of the Sparrow, and I think it would be a great read for a book club.
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