The Purchase

The Purchase

Book - 2013
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Winner of Canada's 2012 Governor General's Award for Fiction
In this provocative and starkly beautiful historical novel, a Quaker family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where slaves are the only available workers and where the family's values and beliefs are sorely tested.
In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, recently widowed and shunned by his fellow Quakers when he marries his young servant girl to help with his five small children, moves his shaken family down the Wilderness Road to the Virginia/Kentucky border. Although determined to hold on to his Quaker ways, and despite his most dearly held belief that slavery is a sin, Daniel becomes the owner of a young boy named Onesimus, setting in motion a twisted chain of events that will lead to tragedy and murder, forever changing his children's lives and driving the book to an unexpected conclusion.
A powerful novel of sacrifice and redemption set in a tiny community on the edge of the frontier, this spellbinding narrative unfolds around Daniel's struggle to maintain his faith; his young wife, Ruth, who must find her own way; and Mary, the eldest child, who is bound to a runaway slave by a terrible secret. Darkly evocative, The Purchase is as hard-edged as the realities of pioneer life. Its memorable characters, drawn with compassion and depth, are compellingly human, with lives that bring light to matters of loyalty and conscience.

Publisher: New York :, Pantheon Books,, 2013.
ISBN: 9780307908414
Branch Call Number: FIC SPAL
Characteristics: pages cm


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Aug 26, 2020

Overall enjoyed this novel, particularly as it pertained to the struggles faced by Daniel and his young family as they attempted to create a home for themselves. Did not realize this was loosely based on the author's ancestors so made it an even more interesting read. It was certainly not an easy read, many of the details very disturbing.

Aug 01, 2020

A story that spans many years of the characters lives and what choices they made that set them upon their lives paths. Only problem I had reading it was sometimes the sentences didn't quite come clear until further reading. Example: "It was a hot day and Wiley's leather breeches were sticking to his legs." (No information as to how Isaac came to be wearing Wiley's breeches. Wiley was gone from home and was a brother-in-law and Isaac did not live with his sister and husband) I thought the author had just forgot who she was writing about until five sentences down the page. Of course it could have just been my old brain that did not work as quickly as it should. I became "rattled several times throughout the book with similar slips as mentioned. I did enjoy the story of all their lives and what made them tick.

Nov 12, 2017

4-4 1/2 star read. I really enjoyed this powerful historical fiction novel. Daniel is a Quaker and when his wife dies in childbirth, he marries his indentured servant, a 15 year old Methodist girl and is cast out of his home for it. With 5 children and his wife, they set out for Virginia to start a new life. But when he ends up buying a slave, against all he believes in, his life changes. A terrific read and based on a true family, I look forward to the second book "The Reckoning".

Oct 02, 2017

Liked the premise of this book - an ostracized Quaker family moving to Virginia where they end up owning a young slave boy. The Quaker father doesn't have a lot of common sense and ends up making a lot of poor decisions to the detriment of his family. The first part of the book follows the family's day-to-day struggles to get settled in their new life and spans a couple of years. The 2nd part passes thru time more quickly with a lot of good and bad events as the children turn into young adults. Overall, I enjoyed it and will read the sequel coming out in Spring 2018.

Jul 29, 2015

The humanity and hypocrisy of pioneer life in early America

The year is 1798. Daniel Dickenson, the father of five children is a Quaker living in Pennsylvania. His wife has just died a few months after giving birth to his youngest son. He has taken on a young woman, Ruth Boyd, an orphan and a Methodist, on a bond of indenture to help with the family during this time. Rather than return her to the almshouse as the Elders insist he feels obligated to keep her. This results in him being banished.

He packs up his family along with Ruth Boyd whom he marries and undertakes a journey to Virginia to start a new life.

The story that unfolds in The Purchase by Linda Spalding is an authentic depiction of what life was like as a pioneer in early America and embraces religion, family, morality and slavery. It is a story of hypocrisy as well as humanity.

The title, The Purchase, refers to the protagonist’s inadvertent purchase of a young boy as a slave. Dickenson, being a Quaker, is an abolitionist, and struggles with this moral dilemma throughout the story. He acts like a slave owner, albeit an enlightened one and he benefits from slave labour, yet considers himself against slavery. This ambivalence is endemic in his character and impacts on his relationships with his family and his community.

Spalding has a population of characters and yet this reader was able to discern each one and while their motivations were complex they all were believable.

This book is seamlessly plotted and powerfully written with sparse yet elegant prose and though it works on many levels they’re all expertly woven together in an intricate mosaic.

Though a remarkable accomplishment it fell short of five stars for me because I couldn’t relate to any of the characters. The time, the society, the circumstances were just too unfamiliar.

Dec 03, 2014

This is a novel about Spalding's ancestors in Virginia in the early 19th century. A committed Quaker, an abolitionist, becomes a slave owner and he and descendants live in moral ambiguity. Unfortunately, all of the characters are not fully developed and some plot lines are dropped.

WVMLStaffPicks Aug 21, 2014

A Quaker family leaves Pennsylvania to set out to homestead in 1798. Facing the realities of pioneer life with meagre possessions and experience, the family is challenged both morally and physically. Based on research from the author’s own family, the story follows the struggles and consequences of these decisions for the family over two generations.

Aug 12, 2014

Hmmm ... found I enjoyed the first half of this book more than the second - thought I'm still not sure if I would recommend it ...

Mar 13, 2014

Widower Daniel Dickinson is cast out of his Quaker community with his new fifteen-year-old orphan bride, his five children children, his two horses and all his worldly goods to venture to Virginia. It is 1798, he is an abolitionist and Virginia is a slave state. Inexplicably and surprising to himself, he bids on and buys a young boy. The resulting story is one of how he and his family cope with their new life and the fact of slavery. I was totally engaged for the first half of so of the book, but began to bog down towards the end as the tone became darker and darker, and the characters more and more desperate. Maybe the author was paralleling the worsening plight of the slaves or of the country or of the friction in society. By the end I was done and didn't want to know anything more about the characters. Daniel was a sad man, his wife Ruth a bitter woman, and his children all in search of some peace and happiness. Was it the loss of his first wife? the loss of their Quaker community? the purchase of Onesimus? the times in general? All of the above?

d2013 Feb 02, 2014

Daniel Dickinson, a firm abolitionist, through unexpected events, is forced to make a decision that a man of his faith shouldn't have to make, buying a young black slave named Onesimus. Unfortunately Daniel Dickinson's life doesn't getting any easier. An eye-opener about the realities of pioneer life.

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