They say good books open up new worlds, and that’s exactly what Michael Wallace does, in Crow Hollow. He takes us to the new world of the American colonies, where wilderness is the backyard, where Puritan conventions and punishments are almost as cruel as the conditions and where once friendly Native American neighbors are almost extinct after a bloody war.
Every time I read a Wallace book, it takes me a couple days to return to normal after traveling to the worlds he creates which are always transformative and tangible in their realism. This time, one hundred years before the colonies will declare their independence, we are in Boston, a small community where church attendance is mandatory, where men guard the walls around the clock and where everyone has fresh memories of war with neighboring Indians.
Prudence Cotton, now free after having been a prisoner of the Nipmuk tribe, desperately wants her daughter back, a three year-old still in the clutches of her Indian captors. James Bailey, an agent of the crown, is on a different mission, but Prudence manages to enlist his help in her quest. Together they search for her daughter while uncovering a conspiracy that leads to murder and betrayal.
Crow Hollow starts a little slow, but that’s simply due to the deliberate immersion it takes to get the reader into the realm of Puritans, new world colonies, British rule and the rough country that is the setting for this tale. Wallace continually reminds us of the wilderness surrounding these small communities and the bravery the colonists must have had to face it. At one point, John Bailey comments that it will take one thousand years to fill the vast space. We know it took far less than that, but the fortitude it must have taken to confront such a task is well demonstrated in characters like Prudence Cotton.
Crow Hollow is yet another example of why I’m a huge Wallace fan. He entertains, he educates and he humanizes historic times that otherwise would be forgotten or overlooked. I’d love to see the continuing story of Prudence Cotton and James Bailey. They’re fantastically drawn, three-dimensional, deeply intriguing characters. They’re bound to get embroiled in some other adventure and when they do, I’d like to go along for the ride.