I enjoyed “Crow Hollow” quite a bit. I tend to like historical fiction, and the early colonial American era is particularly appealing to me, so I had little doubt that I would find at least bits and pieces of this book to my liking.
According to the “About The Author” page at the end of the book, Michael Wallace was “raised in a small religious community in Utah” and later moved to live in New England as an adult. Neither of these things are surprising after having read the book.
Mr. Wallace clearly has experience with New England weather and customs, and his experience with the religious community must have helped him to paint his portrait of the Massachusetts Puritans. The attitudes, actions, and speech of his Puritan and Quaker characters were believable and seemed accurate.
There was an ideal amount of historical detail in “Crow Hollow”–not so much as to become stiff and textbook-like, but enough to give the reader a definite sense of time and place. I appreciated his inclusion of elements such as the specific hair and clothing styles of the local tribes, although I admit I did not do any research to confirm their validity.
In this novel, an agent of King Charles of England travels to Boston in 1676, with a Native American-turned-Quaker as a companion, for reasons known only to himself. Although this agent/spy, James Bailey, is responsible for much of the narration of the story, the reader is left partially in the dark as to his motives for a large portion of the book.
The book’s secondary main character is a widow in her mid-twenties named Prudence Cotton, who has only recently been rescued from an ordeal that involved witnessing the torture and murder of her husband, being held captive by a Native American tribe, and having her toddler daughter taken away from her.
The author does a fine job of creating a well-rounded, complex female character in Prudence Cotton, with strengths as well as weaknesses, virtues and faults, which is something not all male authors are able (or bother) to do.
Prudence has been living with her sister and brother-in-law, the Reverend Stone, and their family, for mere months at the time when James Bailey comes to stay in their home. Upon learning that at least part of his reason for being in America is to investigate the circumstances of the Widow Cotton’s husband’s death, she quickly makes herself acquainted with him and attempts to fill him in on part of the story that has not been made public.
The two of them plus Bailey’s companion, Peter Church, soon find themselves in hot water and escape Boston together in a hurry. What follows is a harrowing adventure that puts them all in peril and forces them to decide exactly how much they can trust one another. Things are made more complicated by a growing attraction between Prudence and James.
“Crow Hollow” was exciting and satisfying. It is possible that some readers might find the ending a touch corny. I had mixed feelings about it, but overall, I found the book entertaining and worthwhile.