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The Visionistby Rachel Urquhart
Synopses & Reviews
An enthralling first novel about a teenage girl who finds refuge--but perhaps not--in an 1840s Shaker community.
After 15-year-old Polly Kimball sets fire to the family farm, killing her abusive father, she and her young brother find shelter in a Massachusetts Shaker community called the City of Hope. It is the Era of Manifestations, when young girls in Shaker enclaves all across the Northeast are experiencing extraordinary mystical visions, earning them the honorific of "Visionist" and bringing renown to their settlements.
The City of Hope has not yet been blessed with a Visionist, but that changes when Polly arrives and is unexpectedly exalted. As she struggles to keep her dark secrets concealed in the face of increasing scrutiny, Polly finds herself in a life-changing friendship with a young Shaker sister named Charity, a girl who will stake everything--even her faith--on Polly's honesty and purity.
"Urquhart has written for Vogue and Allure, yet her debut historical novel features writing of a more restrained sort. Set in 1842 in a small enclave in Massachusetts called City of Hope, the slow-to-build narrative takes a jarring peek into the segregated Shaker way of life where the 'wicked ways of the World' are shunned. Told from three disparate but oddly similar-sounding points of view — teenage Polly, who burned down the family farm to escape her father's sexual abuse; Simon Pryor, a private investigator and 'expert in incendiaries' hired to get to the bottom of the crime by a wealthy entrepreneur interested in the land; and Sister Charity, a particularly prim and self-effacing member of the covenant who watches over Polly after she and her brother are dumped there by their fleeing mother — conventional cultlike behavior and the espousing of Shaker beliefs ('flesh bonds are forged in the fires of carnal sin') abounds. Though Polly's christening as a 'Visionist' soon brings notoriety to the community and Pryor's ardent quest to uncover the truth about who set the blaze barrels closer to resolution, the temperature of the increasingly intertwined plot fails to rise above a simmer despite some well-placed twists. Think a cadre of easily provoked characters held back by unquestioning faith — but in need of Waco's fireworks." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Rachel Urquhart makes her debut as a novelist with THE VISIONIST. She is the author of three Chic Simple lifestyle books. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.
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