Review: Captivity by Deborah Noyes1:00 AM
**Make sure you keep reading after this post, for a guest post by Deborah Noyes!**
by Deborah Noyes
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Unbridled Books; 1 edition (June 1, 2010)
Description: (Publisher Website)
March 1848: On the very night that a Rochester recluse begins contemplating the end of her simple existence, the walls of a farmhouse in nearby Hydesville resound with inexplicable rapping noises. Maggie Fox and her younger sister rivet family and neighbors by claiming to be able to communicate with an unseen spirit. When the girls reveal the identity of “Mr. Splitfoot,” men with picks and shovels arrive to excavate the cellar in search of remains.
As word of the Fox sisters’ strange ability spreads far and wide, pilgrims arrive en mass, staking their tents in surrounding fields and peering in the family’s windows. Shortly after ambitious Leah steps in to manage her younger siblings’ affairs, invitations for “tea and table tilting” begin circulating Western New York. Maggie is subjected to rigorous demonstrations and humiliating investigative committees, to strangers who poke and prod but can’t unpuzzle her, and she takes refuge in an unlikely friendship with Clara Gill, a reclusive scientific artist.
Exiled in Rochester in the wake of a London scandal, Clara is a skeptic of an altogether different sort — one with reason to believe, though reason won’t allow. “The dead are exacting,” she tells Maggie, for it seems Clara knows a thing or two about ghosts.
As Maggie’s fame grows and a mania for contacting the dead sweeps the nation, her circle widens to include the likes of Horace Greeley, P.T. Barnum, and First Lady Pierce. She embarks on a turbulent affair with the equally famous polar explorer Elisha Kent Kane, and when the aristocratic Kane challenges her to give up her “disgraceful” calling, Maggie is torn between love and independence, shame and duty. Her ties to Clara become all the more binding, and against all odds, Maggie takes it upon herself to help her friend confront a loss beyond reckoning…
Told from alternating points of view and weaving past with present, Captivity explores an especially haunted moment in U.S. history when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead were flamboyantly lifted, when science and spirit were colorfully at odds, and when the wills of two very different women collided to work an ordinary miracle of devotion.
This masterful historical novel by Deborah Noyes, the lauded author of Angel & Apostle, The Ghosts of Kerfol, and Encyclopedia of the End (starred PW) is two stories: The first centers upon the strange, true tale of the Fox Sisters, the enigmatic family of young women who, in upstate New York in 1848, proclaimed that they could converse with the dead. Doing so, they unwittingly (but artfully) gave birth to a religious movement that touched two continents: the American Spiritualists. Their followers included the famous and the rich, and their effect on American spirituality lasted a full generation. Still, there are echoes. The Fox Sisters’ is a story of ambition and playfulness, of illusion and fear, of indulgence, guilt and finally self-destruction.
The second story in Captivity is about loss and grief. It is the evocative tale of the bright promise that the Fox Sisters offer up to the skeptical Clara Gill, a reclusive woman of a certain age who long ago isolated herself with her paintings, following the scandalous loss of her beautiful young lover in London.
Lyrical and authentic—and more than a bit shadowy—Captivity is, finally, a tale about physical desire and the hope that even the thinnest faith can offer up to a darkening heart.
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Deb writes for adults and children, and is also an editor and photographer.
Her short fiction and reviews have appeared in Threepenny Review, The Boston Sunday Globe, Seventeen, Washington Post Book World, The Chicago Sun-Times, Stories, Cicada, The Miami Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, Bloomsbury Review, The Boston Review, and other publications.
Her photography has been featured in the Boston Art Commission's Public Art Walk brochure/website, The Griffin Museum of Photography, The Sun: A Magazine of Ideas, The Somerville Windows Art Project, and several of her own books.
She earned a B.A. in English from the University of Massachusetts and an MFA in Writing from Vermont College. She has taught writing and literature at Emerson College and Western New England College, and was a Visiting Writer in Lesley University's MFA in Writing for Young People program.
Deb is a regular faculty presenter at retreats and conferences, as both author and editor, including Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators' weekends in Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin as well as events for the Harvard Museum of Natural History, Vermont College, Maine State Writers Alliance, The Pacific Coast Children's Writers and Illustrators Workshop, the Women's National Book Association (WNBA), Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), and others. In 2007, Deb was honored as one of the Boston Public Library's Literary Lights for Children.
Born in California, Deb spent her early years as a "military brat," living also in Maryland, Virginia, and Massachusetts. Over the years she's worked all manner of day jobs to support the fiction writing habit -- from bartender and book reviewer to children's book editor and zookeeper. She's proud to report she's the only person she knows who's been bitten by a dwarf lemur. "Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey were my idols growing up, and if I had another life to live (I imagine it often, this parallel life), I'd be a field biologist or trek around photographing invertebrates for National Geographic. I wanted rugged adventure, a wild and rambling, get-dirty sort of life, but for a lot of years I ended up in a fairly settled way instead, raising a family I cherish and making up stories in my pajamas. Nature and restlessness cropped up often in my writing as favorite themes though, and reading and writing continue to be the adventure of a lifetime."
Deb lives in Massachusetts with her family.
I don't even know where to start with reviewing this incredible novel. On the one hand it's an incredible work of fiction, and on the other hand it's a glimpse into a piece of American history that has been all but forgotten. I found this entire novel fascinating. I'm a huge history buff, so the historical aspect of it really appealed to me. I did some research of my own on the Fox sisters and found that Noyes stayed very historically accurate in her depiction of the Fox sisters and their fame. By adding the character of Clara, she was able to fill out the story and give it an added depth, which then brings it all alive to a whole new generation who weren't familiar with the story. Cheers to Noyes for bringing history alive and not having to sacrifice the accuracy of the events to do it. This is a brilliant novel. It's rich and satisfying and ultimately more about the relationships and faith than anything else. Run out and grab hold of this one!
Thanks to Unbridled Books for furnishing a copy of this book for me to review!