Monday, July 4, 2011

Rebel Puritan by JoAnn Butler

Rebel Puritan: A Scandalous LifeWow. Throughout reading this novel, the first in a series, one thought constantly prevailed: "Is this chick ever gonna get a break?" It's one of those novels in which the reader's jaw just drops at how much the heroine must endure and as it's based an ancestor of the author with documents in the back of the book supporting the story, I was amazed that it's true. Women had it rough back then!!!

The story begins with Herodias as a little girl.. She's always trying to get out work. She just wants to be a child in a time when there was no such thing. It was all work, work, and more work. Her mother is a bit over bearing. Life is bearable, however, until the plague comes to visit, taking her father and brother and leaving with her a bitter mother who wishes to no longer feed the extra mouth. So it's off to London where she has a cruel and evil aunt who works her to death.

From the frying pan into the.. frying pan, Herodias goes when she quickly agrees to marry a man she has only known a matter of days and travel to the colonies (America) with him. It's the only way out of marrying a pimply faced suitor her aunt is forcing upon her. It's either that or sell her body on the streets... She's only 13 years old... and she braves the ocean crossing and enters the "new world." 

Here we come across much religious strife. Enter Anne Hutchinson. She began a "bible study" of sorts and it was frowned upon back then as men didn't like women telling them how to think or interpret this or that.. (they still don't!) And the Puritan higher ups couldn't stand  her. Thus, a witch hunt of sorts begins. Finger pointing, biased trials, and banishment as the Puritan church is divided in two with half the town following whichever staunch Puritan dude is the preacher and the other half following Anne Hutchinson. 
I never knew of Anne Hutchinson till now and I enjoyed this aspect of the novel tremendously. When a book can both educate and entertain me, that's a major plus. 

While Anne has her religious battles, Herodious has finally entered the fire. Her husband is knocking her around and she has three children by the age of 21. How long before his fists move from her to the kids? And when she goes to get a divorce, she is told, "There is no law against a man chastising his wife. There are many verses in the Scripture touching this.. A married woman must learn in quiet and perfect submission. I suffer not a woman to practice teaching or domineering over a husband."

Needless to say, Herodias can get no help... her husband's chastisement extends to false accusations, broken ribs, busted lips.. and still, Herodias is stuck.. and if she finally does break free, she may part with more than an abusive husband... 

At the beginning of the novel, I liked Herodias' spunk though I thought her a bit lazy and she complained too much of having to work. By the middle of the novel, I was frowning at her getting knocked around. I hate chicks that let themselves get beat and especially chicks that take the blame for it themselves... She became weak there for a while and I began yelling at her, "No!!! Don't take that walk.. don't talk to that man.. you know what will happen!! No.. Aw.. there he goes again.. Told you so.. " By the end, however, Herodias had that fire I saw in her in the beginning. She doesn't wish to tie herself to a man.. she defends herself.. makes a pest of herself to the man in charge.. She got back in my good graces. 

The ending left me wanting more. All in all, this was a very well written book with a heroine I want to read more of. I gotta mention on little quibble, however: too many Johns! I got confused about who was John this and who was John that. I respect the author stayed true to historical facts, but some play with the names may make it easier to remember people.

Four stars and I received this from the author. 

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