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Ten years after the Mayflower landed, Plymouth colony is not the utopian mecca of religious freedom that the Puritans dreamed of. Beheld centers on a murder–one that really happened–and women of the colony are given voices to describe the state of things. Their voices provide new perspectives, and they aren’t just those of the Puritans we so often think of, but of the indentured servants who journeyed with them as well.
The book goes back and forth in time, from the beginning of the Mayflower’s journey to the present time in Plymouth. This format is a bit disorienting and the flashbacks–though interesting–don’t always seem relevant to the story in Plymouth. I considered putting this down a few times because I wasn’t gripped by the story, but I’m ultimately glad I read it for the fresh look at history.
From the bestselling author of The Wives of Los Alamos comes the riveting story of a stranger’s arrival in the fledgling colony of Plymouth, Massachusetts-and a crime that shakes the divided community to its core. Ten years after the Mayflower pilgrims arrived on rocky, unfamiliar soil, Plymouth is not the land its residents had imagined. Seemingly established on a dream of religious freedom, in reality the town is led by fervent puritans who prohibit the residents from living, trading, and worshipping as they choose. By the time an unfamiliar ship, bearing new colonists, appears on the horizon one summer morning, Anglican outsiders have had enough. With gripping, immersive details and exquisite prose, TaraShea Nesbit reframes the story of the pilgrims in the previously unheard voices of two women of very different status and means. She evokes a vivid, ominous Plymouth, populated by famous and unknown characters alike, each with conflicting desires and questionable behavior. Suspenseful and beautifully wrought, Beheld is about a murder and a trial, and the motivations-personal and political-that cause people to act in unsavory ways. It is also an intimate portrait of love, motherhood, and friendship that asks: Whose stories get told over time, who gets believed-and subsequently, who gets punished?
- Mini-Reviews of Recent Reads – April 2020