Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom by Peg Kingman
Published by W.W. Norton & Co
After an unconventional childhood – leaving Scotland at a young age for India and the Far East – Grace is not quite at east in the quite conventional society of Philadelphia in the mid-19th century, surely her mother-in-law does not approve of her at all. Life becomes even more complicated when her old friend Anibaddh, a former slave, returns to Grace with a secret, one that will require Grace to travel south, into the heart of that institution which she most despises: slavery.
I did not realize when I first picked up “Original Sins” that it was actually the second in a series or, at least, it is connected to a book set earlier with the same main character. Luckily Kingman balances the series/stand-alone book divide well. There are enough references to past events to tip the reader off to the existence of an earlier book, but the necessary backstory is sufficiently explained, without giving away the entirety of Kingman’s first book, “Not Yet Drown’d.”
I found “Original Sins” to be absolutely captivating. Grace is certainly not the typical mid-19th century American woman, she is feminist and abolitionist in a time when all American women still gave the majority of their rights over to their husbands automatically upon marriage and slavery was still very much a given. Some will complain that Kingman’s work is more about thoughts and beliefs than about story and I would not necessarily disagree, but I also do not think that is necessarily a bad thing. Yes, Grace, and other characters, expound on their beliefs in long discourses, but it is all supported by the characterization Kingman provides and, most importantly, it was fascinating and thought-provoking.
Although “Original Sins” is certainly not for everyone, people who are intrigued by the exchange of ideas about religion, freedom, and human rights will certainly find themselves engrossed. Highly recommended.
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