Leaving Coy’s Hill: A Novel

Written by Katherine A. Sherbrooke
Review by Susan Higginbotham

Already imbued with a strong sense of justice, twelve-year-old Lucy Stone is aghast when she finds her newlywed cousin Abigail in tears. She learns that Abigail’s husband has cleared his debts by selling Abigail’s beloved horse without consulting her. When Lucy’s inquiries to a local judge inform her that the man was within his rights, she vows to avoid marriage, also bearing in mind the travails of her overworked mother and other women. Instead, she sets herself on an independent course: earning a degree at coeducational Oberlin College, then making a living lecturing to often hostile crowds in the East and Midwest about the abolitionist movement at a time when few women spoke in public. Soon, Lucy’s satisfying yet grueling life on the lecture circuit is shaken by her decision to add the topic of women’s rights to her repertoire, and by a young man named Henry Blackwell, who is determined to persuade Lucy to change her mind about marriage.

Spanning the latter half of the 19th century, Leaving Coy’s Hill follows Lucy’s life from her childhood home of Coy’s Hill in rural Massachusetts to her final home in Boston. It is a moving, impeccably researched biographical novel about a woman who in her own day was as important to the feminist movement as Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, but today is little remembered. Lucy’s sometimes cooperative, sometimes fraught relationship with these two women and other reformers comprises a significant part of Sherbrooke’s story, but it is Lucy’s struggle to reconcile her personal and professional lives, and the clash of her high ideals with human frailty that will resonate most strongly with many readers.

My only complaint about this novel is that I thought that the ending was dragged out. But then, I could see where the author was reluctant to leave her heroine behind, as I certainly was.