Gunning’s second outstanding historical novel explores a young woman’s difficult coming of age, a process that teaches her much about freedom, trust, and the responsibilities associated with both.
Sold by her debt-ridden father as an indentured servant upon their arrival in Massachusetts in 1756, Alice Cole grows up knowing abandonment by those she loves. She spends her childhood bound to the Morton family and treated almost like a sister by daughter Nabby, whom she follows to a new household when Nabby marries – which proves her misfortune. Dutiful Alice, fifteen and beautiful, attracts the unwanted attention of Nabby’s new husband. Desperate to escape, Alice flees eastward on foot along the Boston road and stows away on a ship belonging to a sympathetic widow from Satucket, Lyddie Berry, and her companion. Widow Berry takes her in, making use of Alice’s skill in spinning, and they spend silent days weaving wool into homespun as a protest against costly British goods. Alice’s past life catches up with her, but she finds it impossible to trust the widow and her boarder, attorney Eben Freeman, until it’s almost too late.
From here on, the storyline becomes completely unpredictable, yet it’s fully in keeping with Alice’s character and her social milieu. Gunning’s spare dialogue captures the famous “New England reserve” (surely more pronounced in the mid-18th century?); she also painstakingly re-creates colonial Cape Cod, from its clapboard houses, busy wharves, and fresh salty air to the growing political stirrings among its residents. As a standalone novel, Bound will transport you 250 years into the past and immerse you in a dramatic storyline that exposes the injustice of indentured servitude. As a sequel to The Widow’s War, it not only continues but enhances the experience of the original. Beautifully done, and strongly recommended.