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Alice, a young woman prone to intuitive insights and loyalty to the only family she has ever known, leaves England for the rigid colony of the Massachusetts Bay in 1635 in hopes of reuniting with them again. Finally settling in Windsor, Connecticut, she encounters the rich American wilderness and its inhabitants, her own healing abilities, and the blinding fears of Puritan leaders which collide and set the stage for America's first witch hanging, her own, on May 26, 1647. This event and Alice's ties to her beloved family are catalysts that influence Connecticut's Governor John Winthrop Jr. to halt witchcraft hangings in much later years. Paradoxically, these same ties and the memory of the incidents that led to her accusation become a secret and destructive force behind Cotton Mather's written commentary on the Salem witch trials of 1692, provoking further witchcraft hysteria in Massachusetts forty-five years after her death. The author uses extensive historical research combined with literary inventions, to bring forth a shocking and passionate narrative theory explaining this tragic and important episode in American history.
One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America's First Witch Hanging by Beth M. Caruso
Lady Slipper Press
reviewed by J Duffield of Us Review of Books
"'Goodwife Alice Young, you are under arrest for complaints of consorting with Satan.'"
The author has penned an intriguing historical fiction novel about Alice Young, the first American Colonist hanged for witchcraft. Filled with images of what Puritan life must have been like, Caruso delivers an engaging, if frightening, story about what can result from a people mired in their religious beliefs. The author's sharp setting recreates the early Colonial days—days which were filled with triumphs and terror, new discoveries, and old brutality.
The inception of the witch hangings is a fascinating topic, and the author has clearly done her research. Alice is a worthy heroine; she is as much every woman as she is unique in character. The author delivers her story by way of different countries and different years, but the majority of the story takes place in Windsor, Connecticut in the 1600’s. Having learned about the many healing herbs from the other strong women in her family lineage, Alice uses the knowledge to help the suffering. Instead of gratitude, she experiences hatred from her fellow townspeople who consider her healing talents to be hexes.
Caruso’s dialogue is believable and interesting, and the pace remains solid throughout. While witchery and witchcraft have long been a mystery, these themes are as relevant today as they were in the 1600’s. Although it can be argued that people are now more open to spirituality and magic, most religions clash and even reject these same ideals. The horror brought unto these highly intuitive women should not be forgotten lest they are repeated. Caruso has done an excellent job of capturing this dark time in American history.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review