The Widow’s War
As a whaler’s wife living on Cape Cod in 1761, Lyddie Berry always knew the dangers. One windy January afternoon, when her cousins deliver the tragic news about Edward, Lyddie gathers her strength. She moves in with her daughter’s family, as society dictates she should, but her new life quickly becomes intolerable. Her money no longer her own, her belongings divided without her permission, Lyddie faces a bleak, lengthy widowhood with little more than knitting pins and chores for company. When Lyddie refuses to relinquish her freedom by deeding her house to her hostile son-in-law, her battle for autonomy begins in earnest. She moves back to her former home, the third of it she’s entitled to, even though it makes her the village embarrassment. Her only allies are her husband’s kindly lawyer, Eben Freeman, and her Indian neighbor, Sam Cowett. Each has his own plans for her. As she continues to break society’s rules, Lyddie falls ever deeper into disrepute. Eventually she must decide whether her supposed freedom is worth the shame.
I find it hard to describe this beautifully written work without delving into cliché. Though the bare-bones storyline may make it seem anachronistic, Lyddie belongs fully to her time even as she searches for her place within it. If you’ve ever been curious about the powerful strictures that controlled women’s lives in early America, or even if you haven’t, I urge you to read this book. Gripping, romantic, historically sound, and completely satisfying, The Widow’s War is a standout. I’ll be surprised if I read a better historical novel this year.