The Savage Apostle

Written by John B. Kachuba
Review by Jo Ann Butler

New England, 1675: The body of the Christian Indian John Sassamon is discovered in frozen Assawompset Pond. The eventual trial of three natives for Sassamon’s murder leads ultimately to the devastating King Philip’s War, the struggle between the native inhabitants of New England and the English colonists. The tragic story of the events prior to this conflict is told from two viewpoints, a device allowing the reader to see both sides leading up to the hostilities.

John Eliot, missionary and founder of the Praying Villages, was Sassamon’s mentor. The elderly Eliot sponsored the Wampanoag convert’s education at Harvard and trusted him to continue the conversion of the native tribes to Christianity. The younger Metacom, sachem and chief of the Pokanoket tribe, who is known to the colonists as Philip, provides the other voice in the narrative. Metacom becomes sachem after the suspicious death of his brother Alexander. He wants to live according to the old ways, and according to his tribe’s traditional laws and justice. The trial by the colonists of one of Metacom’s close advisors for murder eventually drives both sides to the brink of conflict, and neither side can draw back.

This novel deals primarily with the events leading up to the war and is not a history of the war itself. Well researched and well written, it will be enjoyed by readers wanting to know more about this sad period in colonial New England’s history.