From the back of the book:
A story of the New World venturers, of wilderness and settlement, of witchcraft and war.
In the 1630s two young girls fresh from England settle with their families in the Connecticut River Valley. There, on the frontier of a terrifying wilderness surrounded by warring natives, they must face the rigors of life among the Puritans – a people steeped in superstition and piety. Based on the lives of Mary Bliss Parsons and Sarah Lyman Bridgeman and the men they loved, this fictional account of a true story transports us to a land founded on a dream, where life was uncertain, and where fear and jealousy would lead to ruin.
There are two things I had heard about this book going into it – first, the author is an 11th generation descendant of Mary Bliss Parsons. Second, it took the author 20 years of research and writing to complete this book. This told me, before even picking up the book, that Williams really cared about the story she was telling.
I really, thoroughly enjoyed this book. While it did start off a little slow, covering the majority of Mary’s life really allowed us to get to know her and see how she grew as a character. And this really does cover the majority of Mary’s life – from when she is a young girl in England, to the voyage over to America and the hardships her family endured here, to marrying and moving into her own home, to the point when all of her children are grown up and ready to start their own lives with wives and husbands. It allowed us to really immerse ourselves in the Puritan lifestyle, and allowed us to see how the bitterness, jealousy and resentment that Sarah Lyman Bridgeman has towards Mary shapes both womens (and both families) lives.
This isn’t the first book I have read that takes place in this time period, however I don’t often read books that throw us so far into the Puritan lifestyle – everything from how they govern their communities, to how they couldn’t even wear hair ribbons or ringlets because it was considered too racy, to how much fear of the unknown and superstition ruled everything. Goodness, if you got in someone’s bad books, you’d better hope they don’t start spreading rumours that you’re actually a witch… pretty soon, everyone’s going to end up believing it. It still amazes me how much knowledge we take for granted compared to what people would have known at that period in time – so much of what Sarah believed was Mary’s witchcraft was in reality a perfectly reasonable result of other events and circumstances. I have a hard time imagining living in a period in time where science hadn’t already explained so much to us.
This was a very well written book. The characters were all fleshed out really thoroughly; the setting and atmosphere both seemed to come alive on the pages. I thoroughly enjoyed reading My Enemy’s Tears and am pleasantly surprised that this is a debut author. I only hope that Williams’ next book doesn’t take her quite as long to read, as I don’t want to wait that long to pick up something else from her.
The Bottom Line
I quite enjoyed this book and would recommend it to other readers who have enjoyed stories about the Salem witch trials.