The Bride’s Farewell
Pell Ridley has seen the ravages of marriage, and she has firmly decided against it. Her mother’s health and well-being have been compromised by frequent childbirth, spousal abuse, and a hardscrabble life in a town with a very apt name: Nomansland. Though her childhood friend Birdie would make a fine husband, marriage isn’t for Pell, so she escapes her home on the morning of her wedding, accompanied by her adoptive brother Bean, a mute who was abandoned by his mother, and her beloved horse Jack. Pell has a way with horses, so she travels to Salisbury Fair in an attempt to find work. But work is difficult to come by for a young woman traveling on her own, and Pell quickly finds herself facing challenges she did not expect. While there are many along her path who are willing to come to her aid, there are others who wish her harm, and her journey toward independence from her family and a better life becomes a struggle to survive.
Set in the 1850s, The Bride’s Farewell is spare, uncompromising, and difficult to put down. Pell could have easily become little more than a tragic runaway in less capable hands. Rosoff shows the reader brief glimpses of the forces that shaped Pell Ridley: the loss of several of her siblings to disease; her drunken zealot father’s abuse; her relationship with Birdie Finch and his family; and her knowledge and love of horses. Most of the relationships that Pell has witnessed in her brief life are dysfunctional in some way, and one of Pell’s greatest struggles throughout the book is reconciling her need for connection with others with her fear of dependence. This novel is strikingly original, refreshingly unsentimental, and a pleasure to read.