What a day! And tomorrow well be celebrating in style at First Churches here in Northampton, Mass., with Susan (and you, we hope!). The church (“a large stone Gothic cathedral”!) is at 129 Main St. and the reading is at 7 p.m.
On this day that part of the government has stepped away from its duties and shut down the government, it is a relief to read the history of the church:
“The American Baptist and United Church of Christ congregations joined together in June of 1988 to become The First Churches. The First Church of Christ of Northampton, is the oldest congregation in our city and was established in 1661. The First Baptist Church in Northampton was founded under the leadership of Rev. Benjamin Willard in 1826. Now, both churches share in worship, fellowship, educational classes, programs, and mission and act as one congregation.”
Two groups working together. It can be done!
Today has been a long time coming for Spider in a Tree. Susan has been writing this novel for ten years. It is a strong, fabulous book about life in 1740s Massachusetts and the frictions between belief and work, neighbors and preachers, church and town. Jonathan Edwards and his (large!) family are at the forefront but also their slaves—how could people who called themselves godly own slaves? It was a different time, a different mindset, very hard to comprehend from here. Susan does a wonderful job of putting the reader into the heads of many of the people who actually lived in this town back then. I’ll put a small taste of it below.
Hope to see friends and neighbors tomorrow at First Churches. The reading is the first in Forbes Library’s local reading series and Broadside Books will be there with the book—as well as tickets for Susan’s Bridge Street Cemetery Tour on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m. But, mostly, congratulations to Susan for this fabulous book and thank you for sending it to us!
Chapter 1: June 1731, Newport to Northampton
The girl saw a tall, gaunt man look up from a slice of raisin pie (she had baked it, perfecting her hand with cold water crust) when she walked into Captain Perkins’s parlor with Phyllis close behind her. She could see that he was the one doing the buying. Phyllis put a hand on the small of her back to position her near the table where the men sat. The girl stared at the oozing, dark-flecked pie from which the buyer had spooned a tiny bite.
“Mr. Edwards, this is Venus.” Captain Perkins spoke smoothly. “I kept her as the pick of the lot when I unloaded most of the cargo in the Caribbean on my last voyage. I got a shipment of very good allspice, as well.”
“Impressive,” murmured someone.
The girl held her hands clasped and her back straight, but her legs were trembling. Phyllis kept a hand on her back. She had said that there would be others in the room, come to witness the sale over pie and rum punch. The girl barely took them in.
She raised her eyes and found Mr. Edwards looking at her face. She felt locked out of her own mind, both numbed and spinning, but she held his gaze. This was improper, but he kept looking himself, steadily, into her eyes. He was, perhaps, twice as old as she was, so still young. He had on a black coat with a beaver hat resting on his knee. She could see that he was a stranger, and his collar marked him as a preacher. Whatever else he might be, as a person to exchange glances with, he was uncommonly intense.
Captain Perkins spoke up from his chair. “She’s a dutiful girl. And she’s already had the small pox.”
. . .