Accidents of Providence by Stacia Brown
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
It is 1649 and England is in the grip of a Civil War, but for a number of women there is an even more consuming war being fought. Unwed mothers can be punished and forced to reveal the father of their child. Even worse, any unwed woman caught concealing the death – natural or otherwise – of a child born out of wedlock is legally guilty of murder. One such woman is Rachel Lockleyer, an unmarried glove maker whose employer Mary claims to have seen her head into the woods with a bundle. Mary later retraced Rachel’s path and found the body of an infant with a bruise around its neck.
Accidents of Providence picks up Rachel’s story after she has been arrested for the murder of her illegitimate child and works through the investigation and her trial. Brown includes a great deal of historical information without resulting to info dumps. Of particular interest is the subplot about the Leveller movement, which is brought in as Rachel’s lover is a married hero of the Leveller cause.
The themes of Accidents of Providence are particularly interesting in light of the recent rhetoric from the USA 2012 Republican Presidential Primaries and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church in America, as well as the brouhaha with the Susan G. Koman Foundation and Planned Parenthood, in which reproductive rights, even the basic access to birth control, is being debated are reconsidered. While Accidents of Providence can at times be a bit slow – it does, after all, revolve around a 17th century trial – it would make a fascinating read for book clubs who aren’t afraid to merge the discussion of literature and modern politics.
Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
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