Thursday, January 20, 2022

Out Front the Following Sea by Leah Angstman, a tale of female strength and survival in early New England

Hang on tight for a bracing read about a young woman’s strength in the wilderness and towns of late 1680s New England.

The courageous heroine of Leah Angstman’s debut novel is Ruth Miner, just sixteen when she’s forced to endure the frigid winter temperatures while caring for her elderly grandmother, suffering from dementia, in their spartan cabin near Shrewsbury, East Jersey Province. Considered an outcast following suspicion that she killed her parents through witchcraft, Ruth knows she must shoulder her burdens alone. Being an independent woman in this time and place, though, is dangerous, a theme carried through the entire novel.

Ruth’s one initial ally is a sea captain’s half-French son, Owen Townsend, who knows the truth about her past. After her grandmother’s inevitable death, Ruth knows she needs to flee a mob of angry townspeople and wangles a spot aboard Owen’s ship, the Primrose, as freight (not a fun prospect!) since all the passenger slots are filled.

Arriving in the coastal settlement of Stonington in Connecticut Colony, Ruth finds a quasi-home with a Quaker couple, though pressure mounts for her to find a husband. Owen, however, must be off on another voyage just as an older merchant comes seeking her hand. Meanwhile, despite a prevailing treaty, tensions between the English and French are heating up in the colonies, leading ultimately to King William’s War.

The atmosphere feels raw, the setting untamed, the characters stubborn and full of purpose. The author’s muscular language does much heavy lifting in evoking the time through original expressions and an impressive command of period vocabulary. Many insults are worth jotting down for future use (“You fewmet of a boar!” “Ale-soused applejohn!”).

Fast-paced action, an emotional love story, race relations, and international political intrigue intermingle in a compelling way. The author makes some impressively daring choices with her characters’ lives. At times the narrative feels whittled down from a longer book, since there are some gaps where we don’t get to see how characters got from point A to point B.

Few novels depict this troubled time in American colonial history, or early Connecticut, for that matter, and Ruth is a heroine well worth following on her dramatic journey of survival.

Out Front the Following Sea was published in January by Regal House; I reviewed it from an Edelweiss e-copy as part of the tour for Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

Out Front the Following Sea tour banner

No comments:

Post a Comment