FABULOUS! REMARKABLE! I didn't want this book to end. I love and admired the main character Lyddie and her growth into independence. I immediately cared what happens to the characters. I wanted to know what happened next. A real page turner for me. A very quick read. Other reviewers love the historical detail. I kept wanting more MORE! I do hope that she writes a sequel.
Title: The Widow's War
Author: Sally Gunning
Protagonist: Lyddie Berry
Setting: Satucket Village on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, 1761
First Line: Lyddie Berry heard the clatter of the geese and knew something was coming--Cousin Betsey, Grandson Nate, another wolf, or, knowing those fool birds, a good gust of wind--but when she heard the door snap hard against the clapboards she discounted all four of them; she whirled with the wind already in her skirts to see the Indian, Sam Cowett, just ducking beneath the lintel.
Fortysomething Lyddie Berry is no stranger to grief; she's buried four of her five children. But when her husband Edward drowns while whaling, she's not only thrust once more into the numbness of sorrow--she's tossed into a new life she wasn't expecting. Being married to a whaler had accustomed her to a life of being alone for long stretches of time. It had accustomed her to being self-reliant and to making her own decisions. But Edward's will merely gives Lyddie her traditional "widow's third"--one third use, but not ownership, of his estate. Lyddie is allowed only the things she brought with her to her marriage and is forced to live with her daughter, Mehitable, her grandchildren, and Mehitable's petty tyrant of a husband, Nathan Clarke. Clarke immediately decides to sell the Berry property, and Lyddie finds herself living in a small room in the Clarke house, trying to be a useful part of the family without antagonizing anyone, and begrudged the purchase of a pair of buckles for her shoes. Breaking completely from her family, Lyddie takes her belongings, moves back to her home, and decides to fight for her right to live how and where she wants. Along the way, she finds help from a lawyer, Ebeneezer Freeman, and her neighbor, the Indian, Sam Cowett.
"Oh, Edward, she thought, how could you possess such knowledge of my flesh and so little of my spirit?"
Gunning did a marvelous job of putting me in the eighteenth century Cape Cod setting. Never once did I feel hit over the head by her research. Almost any woman can identify with Lyddie's plight. I was certainly no exception. The only thing that annoyed me in this wonderful, page-turning book was Lyddie's indecision about the men in her life. Cast free from Edward and all she'd ever known, she just couldn't seem to make up her mind about any of them. In a way, it's understandable. She thought she knew Edward and had a huge shock delivered to her on a platter at his death. It's no wonder that she became suspicious and indecisive about male motives thereafter. I would've much preferred, however, that she hadn't led them on while she was trying to make up her mind.
I enjoyed The Widow's War so much that I went searching for Gunning's other books. She's written another historical, Bound, in which Lyddie makes another appearance, and she's also written a contemporary mystery series set in New England. Ah, my wish list will never know an end!
Wow, this book was very good! I HIGHLY recommend it! You can tell that the author has a personal connection with the characters by the way she writes them (the fact that the author is from that area of Cape Cod probably helps add to the detail presented, everything from geography to laws to characters seems so well-researched). She makes the characters seem so real, not one of them is "perfect" and all have their flaws. Even the "bad" characters aren't completely evil, and seem to have moments of humanity that seem sincere. The story is about Lyddie Berry, a recent widow (at 39 years old was considered old but possibly still marriageable by the standards of the day), trying to preserve her way of life best she can. However, her son-in-law, Nathan Clarke, has other plans for her & her property since by law he now holds the title. Lyddie, however, has right to 1/3 of the property, so Clarke isn't able to do anything until Lyddie signs over her rights, something she isn't willing to do. Her "war" puts her at odds with her daughter, her grandchildren, her friends (including her lawyer), and the community at large. Her friendship & later employment with a local Indian, Sam Cowett, puts her at further odds with everyone around her. All Lyddie wants to do is have the basic right of freedom, find out what really happened that caused her husband's death at sea, and somehow find a way to talk to her daughter again. You can't help but get sucked in by Lyddie's determination, feel frustrated along with her at times, and share in her sorrow over & over again as she recounts instances in her life that reflect the love she and her husband once had together. This story moves at a relatively quick pace, never feels bogged down, and has relatively short chapters that help it move along nicely. I recently found out that Gunning wrote a second book, Bound, about this same village & Lyddie plays a role in it, so look forward to eventually reading that as well!
Historical fiction at its best, this book tells the story of Lyddie, a fisherman's wife who is widowed and has to figure out how to take control of her own life--not an easy proposition in colonial, Puritan Massachusetts. You'll root for Lyddie as she battles her son-in-law and daughter, her Indian neighbor and a well-meaning but manipulative lawyer for the right to live where she pleases and do what she pleases. The atmosphere and the historical details are absolutely perfectly written, and the characters are vivid and multi-dimensional.
I really enjoyed this story.. It really held my interest up to the last page. There were a few surprises and I really felt for the characters, I could relate to them, they made me sad, happy, angry.. they felt real and I really enjoyed it, and I would recommend it.
The "Widow's War" made me thankful that women like her stood up for their rights in a world of doimenerring men. The price was dear but she was unwavering and held her ground. Sally Gunning did a remarkable job making the characters come to life.
This book is set in 1760s in a Cape Code town where the English custom of leaving a widow 1/3 of the husbands estate and also leaves the widow to be cared for financially by the nearest male relative is the norm. Unfortunately for Lyddie, the main character, her son-in-law is a tight fisted, cruel, heartless brute who does not care for Lyddie at all except for the income he can get from selling her home and all her possessions after her husband of 20 years is killed in a fishing accident.
Since Lyddie is used to managing the household by herself due to her late husbands frequent absence from home as a fisherman, she decides to claim the rights to 1/3 of her property and continue to live in her own home alone. Her actions draw Lyddie into a war for independence for herself set against the backdrop of the country beginning to think of independence from England. The sketchy character development left me with too many questions as I was reading this book what happened to her relationship with her daughter that they barely know or care about each other? Why dont her grandchildren know her? I was too distracted by trying to figure out some of the relationships between her, her family and other characters to completely enjoy the book.
Was impressed with the development of the characters. The main character stood up for what she believed regardless of the implications with regards to society expectations. A good read and fun to discuss in a book club.
This book interestingly showed how women were, in essence, viewed as property by the men in their society. They were not seen as capable of making decisions about their own future. So, when Lyddie takes it upon herself, after the seed was planted by her husband's attorney, to fight for what is rightfully hers, she is viewed with suspicion in her community. I enjoyed reading about the work that needed doing to run a household, and I enjoyed seeing how each character -- men and women -- reacted to Lyddie's choices. It is certainly eye-opening to read about a feminist in very early times.
I recommend this book to anyone with an interest in history. I further recommend it to anyone looking for a good book to discuss in a book group setting.
I liked this book a lot. It was well written - interesting but not overly verbose. I read the follow up book to this one, "Bound," first, and I think reading them out of order is nice. Not knowing the stories of the other main characters in "Bound," put me more in the position of Alice, the main character of "Bound." While reading "Bound," I was curious about Widow Berry and Freeman. The history of them is alluded to, explained to some extent but never totally set forth. "The Widow's War" fleshes out that story. I totally recommend reading these books out of order.
Awesome book! Set in colonial New England, the "war" is for independence...but not what you'd think. In these times, if a woman lost her husband, she also lost control of her own life. Meet Lyddie Berry, a strong, stoic and very unusual woman for her times. She's not happy living with her overbearing, stingy and generally mean son-in-law and daughter. But bucking "the system" is not without its harsh penalties. The author did a wonderful job researching and fleshing out her characters. I was totally hooked!
I loved everything about how Gunning told this tale. The dialogue, historical detail, and believable characters were masterfully done. "Lydia" questions society's rules and expectations as a recently widowed woman on pre-revolutionary Cape Cod. This is the story of a woman with spirit and courage as she struggles for her own "independence". I've walked the same areas of this town and found the "tour and descriptions" at the end of the book a wonderful addition. Her other book, Bound, taking place in the same area several years later is already on my shelf.
Oh how I loved this book! It could also be a really good movie if someone did a good job on a screenplay.
The beginning was a little too slow for me, so much so that I nearly gave up on it but I persevered and I'm so glad I did. I fell in love with Lyddie and really didn't want the book to end. Sally's writing was magical and I found the story, characters and plot interesting, engaging and fun. If I had one complaint it would be that the beginning was like watching a kettle boil. You just wanted it to get going! Lyddie also wasn't as open or thoughtful until the middle of the book. But once it became alive, it was a joy to read. I'll definitely check out her other books. This is one of my favorite books. Don't miss this one.
It is 1761 and a woman has no rights. After losing her husband to her fear - the sea - Lyddie fights for her property - the very house she lives in. Due to the laws of that time, all her possessions go to her closest male relative - her son-in-law - whom Lyddie cannot tolerate. Does she win the war, only to lose the fight....?
I read this book in 2 days. I am a little bit of a history buff and the author does a great job entertaining you with the characters and educating you on the time period.
I will be definitely be holding onto this book.