Synopses & Reviews
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.
"In The Purchase, one man's unsettling betrayal of his own moral code creates unforeseen ripples that sweep over multiple generations. Thanks to Spalding's compassion and the singular brilliance of her narration, this transfixing novel weaves a tale that is both intimate in nature and, ultimately, huge in scope." Gil Adamson, author of The Outlander
"A poised and moving novel about the indignities of slavery and the moral stain at the inception of the American republic. The astonishing historical detail never detracts from the poignancy of the characters or the compelling narrative, which quickly swells into a drama of blood, betrayal and belonging." Caryl Phillips, author of Crossing the River and The Final Passage
"The Purchase is as engrossing as it is partly because it is set in a time, the dawn of the 19th century, and a place, the frontier society of slave-owning Virginia, where bad judgment could very easily prove fatal. [Readers] will find themselves immersed in a powerful mood, a feeling of something dark and brooding and yet bracing, in one of the finest historical novels in recent years." The National Post
"With The Purchase, Spalding places a contemporary spin on the traditional novel of the antebellum South: Frontier adventure meets plantation romance meets slave narrative — and to haunting effect....It reads like a disturbing dream imbued with the power of myth." The Toronto Globe and Mail
"A complex and engaging novel that is Hardy-esque in its examination of the consequences of the purchase of a young African man...a powerful novel of personal tragedy that ends in a hopeful way." Ottawa Citizen
In this hard-edged, starkly beautiful historical novel set in the early 1800s, a Quaker family moves from Pennsylvania to the Virginia frontier, where all their values will be tested by setting up a homestead in the wild and by the moral dilemma of owning a slave.
In 1798, Daniel Dickinson, recently widowed, shunned by his fellow Quakers when he marries his young servant girl to help with his five young 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 soon becomes the owner of a young slave boy named Onesimus, a purchase that sets off a chain of tragic events. As Daniel's children and young wife grow and change, those events send each member of the family down a different path and drive the book to its unexpected conclusion.
Filled with moral complexity, memorable characters drawn with compassion and depth, and the nitty-gritty details of frontier life, The Purchase is a powerful novel of sacrifice and redemption, a resonant and timeless work.
About the Author
Linda Spalding was born and raised in Kansas. She is the author of three previous novels and two acclaimed works of nonfiction, A Dark Place in the Jungle, which was short-listed for the Trillium Book Award and the Pearson Writers’ Trust Non-Fiction Prize, and Who Named the Knife. The Purchase received Canada’s prestigious Governor General’s Award for English-language fiction. Spalding lives in Toronto, where she is an editor of the literary magazine Brick.