“No, it wasn’t Eliza’s preaching nor any outward lack the eye could see that troubled Jess. It was music. Jess pined for music, though it would hard to say how he’d come by any such longing. To the Quakers music was a popish dido, a sop to the senses, a hurdle waiting to trip man in his upward struggle. They kept it out of their Meeting Houses and out of their homes, too.”
Jessamyn West wrote this novel about an Indiana Quaker family almost 75 years ago. Beginning in the 1860’s, we follow this delightful family through the child-rearing days, the Civil War, and the family gatherings years later when the children are grown with little ones of their own.
I chose this as my Indiana pick for the 52 Books Around the USA Challenge, and it was surprisingly good. My own husband’s ancestors were Quakers that settled in southern Indiana, so it was doubly exciting to me to read about a family that might have been similar to those I was researching. I have seen bullet holes resulting from Morgan’s raid, where the Confederates reached up into Indiana during the Civil War. And although the Society of Friends were pacifists, many young Quaker men enlisted in the Union Army, to do their duty and to fight against slavery, much to the chagrin of their families. I so enjoyed West’s take on the war in the context of the Birdwell family – it really made history (and those bullet holes) come alive.
This novel made me laugh and sympathize and charmed me in a way few books can. This was a wonderful read!
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1940