In this third book in the Quaker Trilogy by Ann Turnbull, Will and Susanna move their family to Philadelphia, where they hope to have a new start in life. The star of the show is their son Josiah, a boy who still has some soul-searching to do when it comes to being a Quaker. Somewhat rebellious, Josiah feels he is only ever a disappointment to his father and does what he can to irritate him. But when Jos becomes apprenticed to the wealthy merchant George Bainbrigg and falls in love with Kate, he starts to settle into his new role and thinks of a successful future and family–nothing could sway his loyalty to Baingbrigg…
At least, not until Josiah learns that he is to become involved in the slave trade. On a trip to Barbados, they take five slaves aboard their ship to sell in the Americas. Two of them are young sweethearts, Antony and Patience, and Josiah will not see them separated. To whom does Josiah owe his loyalty–to the master who could secure his future, or to the inner light, which says slavery is all wrong?
I’ll admit I didn’t like this book as much as the previous two in the series, probably because I didn’t like Josiah quite as much as I did Will and Su. That said, this was another extremely well-researched book that threw me straight into the historical time period and, in the process, taught me something I didn’t know. I had no idea that some Quakers kept slaves–it seemed like something they would be wholeheartedly against. This book explores the issue: some quakers believed it was altogether wrong, while others said “well, at least we’re buying them–we’d be better owners than others–and we can show them the inner light, as is our duty.”
The depiction of slavery is done well, which means it was well and truly heartbreaking. The entire time I was reading this I was wondering how on earth this could have a happy ending, and of course it couldn’t–so if you’re looking for a book full of sunshine and rainbows you might want to look elsewhere. That said, it probably does turn out better for the characters than it potentially could have–but still, it was heartbreaking.
Josiah was an interesting character who developed from a rebellious boy to a caring young man throughout the course of the book. Kate fell a little flat for me–I actually felt more connected to Patience, who we saw less. This was probably why I felt the romance was a bit sudden and fast between Kate and Josiah–I just couldn’t see the connection when I had no connection with Kate myself. I also felt more connected to Antony than to Patience, but that’s to be expected when he had regular sections in his perspective throughout the book.
I liked that the plot didn’t center on Josiah and Kate’s relationship so much as Antony and Patience’s, because the second relationship was so much more problematic. It gave the characters some depth in my eyes to see that they realized that. While Josiah and Kate might have been separated for some time, it was nothing like the separation that Antony and Patience were facing.
All in all, a good read. Certainly not a light one! If you liked the previous books in the series I recommend finishing it off. And, if you’re perhaps more interested in American history and slavery than you are in Quaker religion, I think this book could be read as a standalone without the need to read the previous ones. The main characters here are entirely different, and while the characters from the previous books are present, they play only a minor role.