Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

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by Amy Belding Brown

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A historical novel based on the life of Mary Rowlandson

“An authentic drama of Indian captivity…A compelling, emotionally gripping tale.”—Eliot Pattison, author of the Mystery of Colonial America series

She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness…  See more details below


A historical novel based on the life of Mary Rowlandson

“An authentic drama of Indian captivity…A compelling, emotionally gripping tale.”—Eliot Pattison, author of the Mystery of Colonial America series

She suspects that she has changed too much to ever fit easily into English society again. The wilderness has now become her home. She can interpret the cries of birds. She has seen vistas that have stolen away her breath. She has learned to live in a new, free way....

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson was captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community. Now, her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

Based on the compelling true narrative of Mary Rowlandson, Flight of the Sparrow is an evocative tale that transports the reader to a little-known time in early America and explores the real meanings of freedom, faith, and acceptance.


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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 06/15/2014
Brown's second novel (after Mr. Emerson's Wife) examines how the early English settlers made their way to the New World, built their communities, and related to the established Native American culture. The author retells the real-life story of Mary Rolandson (1637–1711), a resident of an outpost town in 1600s Massachusetts, who was taken in an Indian raid and eventually restored to English society. After her capture, Mary becomes a slave to a powerful female Indian leader and witnesses savage cruelty as well as kindness. She also enjoys a new freedom she never experienced in her old life. When she is finally returned to her minister husband, Mary is conflicted by the prejudice her community bears against the native peoples even as they are defeated by the English armies and forced into small, guarded encampments. VERDICT Brown has written an engaging and enjoyable novel based on solid research. Students of history may be put off by the trappings of a romance in the story line but will value the authentic representation of early Colonial America and the more sympathetic portrait of Native Americans that is lacking in James Alexander Thom's similar Follow the River.—Cheryl Bryan, Orleans, MA

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Penguin Publishing Group
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Age Range:
18 Years

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Praise for Flight of the Sparrow

"Breathes life into a vital but oft-neglected chapter of our history. Amy Belding Brown has turned an authentic drama of Indian captivity into a compelling, emotionally gripping tale that is at once wrenching and soulful." —Eliot Pattison, author of the Mystery of Colonial America series

“A mesmerizing tale of survival and awakening…The deftly depicted cross cultural friendship reminded me of Caleb's Crossing and the fast-paced story kept me up turning pages.” —Donna Thorland, author of The Turncoat and The Rebel Pirate

“Brown's voice transforms a remote period into a fresh and immediate world and, in Mary, gives us a heroine who is broken by sorrow but determined to survive. This is a novel about the true meaning of faith and freedom."—Kelly O'Connor McNees, author of The Island of Doves and The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

“The story of Mary Rowlandson is the story of one of the darkest episodes in our nation’s history, and yet Amy Belding Brown manages to turn it into a soaring tale of light and hope…The Flight of the Sparrow reminds us of the promise of America and that the fulfillment of that promise relies on every human heart.”—Sally Cabot Gunning, author of Benjamin Franklin’s Bastard, The Widow’s War, Bound, and The Rebellion of Jane Clarke.

Praise for Mr. Emerson’s Wife

"Amy Belding Brown has brought her back to life in a novel that glitters with intelligence and authenticity."—Geraldine Brooks, author of March

"In this extraordinary book, Amy Belding Brown has brought the nineteenth century to life...A soaring imaginative leap, this book combines detailed history with a page-turning illicit love story. It’s a look at a rich moment in American history and a great read, a rare combination."—Susan Cheever, author of My Name Is Bill and Note Found in a Bottle

"A beautiful work...It is quite refreshing to see that ambition backed up with a quality of writing that bears up to the weight of its subject matter."—Bret Lott, author of Jewel and A Song I Knew by Heart

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Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the first book this year , thus far, that I have read. I won't lie , the true telling of the attack is very vividly retold. If you don't like violence you will be very upset. However, this really happened and the author must retell it. She does it matter of factly, with tact. I didn't like Joseph. This author tells of the Puritan movement in a way that actually makes me want to read more about it. She vividly recounts how meaningless our female ancestors were to their men. I'm sure not all men acted this way, but you will certainly know how little female influence was. This is just a good book. Highly recommended reading.
Ariana_EJR More than 1 year ago
I have problems with this novel.  It's gotten all sorts of favorable reviews, but I was less impressed.  The writing itself is excellent.  It is based on an actual narrative by Mary Rowlandson, who was captured when the settlement was attacked and later 'redeemed.'   Where I find fault with the novel is the picture of Puritan.  There seems to be a trend to portray them as narrow, and pious in its most pejorative sense.  The women are portrayed as being held down by their patriarchal husband and the society. It is true that the ethos of the time said that there was a hierarchy with the husband and then the wife and then children and servants.  It is also true that Anne Hutchinson was tried and convicted for treason because she dared to preach for herself. I thought the descriptions of her life with the Indians rang true mostly.  I thought her descriptions of what happened and people's reactions to her also rang true. All in all a well written but flawed book - based on the writers stated distaste for what she perceived.    
gaele More than 1 year ago
AudioBook Review: Stars:  Overall: 4 Narration 4 Story 4 A fictional novelization of an actual character, Amy Belding Brown brings us the story of Mary Rowlandson, a pre-revolutionary war settler in the Massachusetts Puritan settlement of Lancaster.  Not only were these settlers struggling to maintain life, but within a rather inflexible social structure: one that viewed the Native Americans as savages, and often reacted to them with hostility and encroachment.   During the time of the story, the English troops are embroiled in repeated ongoing campaigns against the Natives, in what is known as King Phillip’s War, a three year series of ever-increasing violent clashes between the settlers, British and the Native Americans, led by Metacomet, a Wampanoag tribe member. Frustrated with the increasing encroachment by settlers, and the dismissive if not outright  disregard of his people, hostilities increased with regular raids, attacks and fairly frequent hostage taking.  Mary and her three children were taken during one of these raids when her husband, a minister was away.  Thus began her three months of captivity, including the loss of her sister, daughter and rigid adherence to the laws and rules of faith she has believed are the  hallmarks of a good Puritan woman. Those facts are necessary background for readers coming to this story: a quick refresher-course in  the basic outline that forms the structure around which the author has crafted this novel.  Told in third person present, the initial chapters of the story are slow: full of information and a need to adjust to the narration style of the story, while giving readers some sense of the community. Understand that life, death and conflict are all harsh, especially viewed from modern eyes, and Belding Brown does not hold back on description: life isn’t always pretty, and she does remind us of the human costs  in this time, building imagery, tension and visual references that are often sanitized and cleaned up in history.   What we get from the story, as it picks up, is the progression of Mary: kindnesses showed her despite the captivity by James Printer, a Nipmuck that was educated at the Indian Charity school in Cambridge. His balance between the two worlds, and his awareness of the traditional ways gives Mary a sounding-board, to answer questions, to converse, and lastly to bring her to consider a haven with him: where the freedoms unfamiliar in her old life are available.  Mary’s growing pains as she comes to admire the Native way of life and worship, that encompasses a far wider circle than her narrowed view of structured prayer, laws and rigid adherence to both presents her with possibilities that she never could, or would have dreamed possible. This is truly the story of her journey: informed by fact yet reimagined by the author.  Characters in this story are varied and distinct: Mary is solidly portrayed with the exception of a few changes after her release that were far too publicly dramatic, even after her ordeal. I don’t feel that her husband was ever anything more than a rigidly pontificating man, while Puritans were a very tightly strung bunch, the development of his character skewed more caricature than human.  John Printer, as well as the other Native Americans were given solid development: their losses and concerns as well as life at the time was well-presented, and while one had to feel for Mary in al that would change for her in her return, sympathies are solidly in the corner of the natives who lost all but memories of a life lived by their own rules after the loss of the war.  Narration is provided by Heather Henderson, and she presents characters and the story clearly and cleanly: small adjustments to tone  and pacing throughout the production present the character changes without distraction. Nuanced with the emotional underlayment of  the text, never over-reaching or overemphasizing single points to the detriment of the story.  While not perfect, this story is a wonderful depiction of the growth of Mary as she learns to acknowledge and even honor those who are different and “savage”, and depicts with heart the dramatic losses sustained by the Native American population of the time, and future,  as a result of the colonization.  I received an AudioBook copy of the title from the publisher via AudioBook Jukebox. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility. 
Mirella More than 1 year ago
Flight of the Sparrow is a biographical novel about the experiences of Mary Rowlandson who lived in 17th century Massachusetts at a time when conflict with Native Americans was at its pinnacle. After the town of Lancaster is attacked and burned, Mary and three of her children survive, but are taken captive by a local tribe. She is separated from her children, except for the youngest, Sarah, who is severely injured, and wounded herself, Mary stoically carries her child as far as she can, desperate to try to save her daughter’s life, but knowing that there is little hope. They are taken to the Indian village where she struggles to survive, despite the ultimate loss of Sarah. She is befriended by a Praying Indian named James Printer, who helps guide her in this strange new culture that has been forced upon her. I found Mary’s story and plight heart-wrenching for it is hard to imagine such loss, such cruelty, not only at having witnessed the murder of friends and family, but of having to stoically go on with one’s life without respite. The first half of the story pertains to Mary’s captivity and all that she had to endure. Following that is her rescue and her re-assimilation into a society that would never again embrace her, that almost shuns her. But Mary had somewhat adapted to the native culture, and found many things to laud about it. So when she is installed back into her previous life, a whole new set of struggles arise. Her marriage, her family life, even her Christian faith have been shaken. A great deal of research went into the writing of this novel, made evident by the many interesting details and facts presented through a fictionalized prose. The author did a wonderful job of bringing to life the personal side of Mary’s story including the reactions of her family, friends, and other contacts. The author has presented not only Mary’s suffering, but also that of the Puritans and the tumult faced by the native Americans. A very compelling and authentic story! Highly recommended. 
susanbailey More than 1 year ago
SETTING Flight of the Sparrow, set for release on July 1, goes back to the beginning of the Puritan settlement in Massachusetts, using historical fiction to portray the devastating consequences of the epic clash between the English and the Native American. The setting is King Phillip’s war, taking place in the mid 1670’s; its consequences are played out through one Puritan woman and one Nipmuc man. MAIN CHARACTERS Mary Rowlandson was the wife of a minister in the town of Lancaster. Brown’s main character is based upon a real-life woman whose experiences are documented in a book she co-wrote called The Sovereignty and Goodness of God, Together with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed, Being a Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson. This religious memoir of her three months as an Indian captive was the first “best-seller” in English America (pg. 329). James Printer, also known as Wowaus, came from Hassanamesit, a Praying Indian settlement founded by John Elliot who translated the Bible for the Indians to aid in their conversion to Christianity. The remains of Hassanemesit are located in my hometown of Grafton, Massachusetts. James Printer helped to set the type for the first edition of Mary Rowlandson’s book. For a time after the war he resided in the sole remaining Praying Indian settlement, Natick, just one town over from my childhood home of Wellesley. SUMMARY OF THE STORY After the town of Lancaster is attacked and burned, Mary is taken captive along with her three children by the Nipmuc tribe (her husband Joseph was away at the time). In the course of the battle, her sister Elizabeth is wounded and then killed by fire, Mary herself is wounded, and her youngest daughter Sarah is also wounded mortally; she would die several days later as the captives are led away bound with rope. Mary carries Sarah as far as she can, struggling to ease her daughter’s pain, knowing there is nothing she could do to save her. Adding to her burden is her separation from her other daughter Marie and son Joss. Living in sheer terror from moment to moment during that march, Mary experiences unexpected kindness from James Printer, who frees her from the rope around her neck. It would prove to be the first of several encounters for Mary with this mysterious, handsome and compassionate man. COLLISION OF CULTURES During the first half of Flight of the Sparrow, Brown describes Mary’s captivity, weaving in detailed, colorful and honest descriptions of Native American life. Presenting the beauty and nobility along with the cruelty, Brown brings us into the increasing turmoil of Mary’s mind and heart. Terrified of and angry with her captives one moment, she finds herself admiring their way of life in the next. She gradually accepts Indian ways, from the freestyle way of dress to time spent outdoors, finding solace in the beauty that had before eluded her. She experiences the growing pains of a personal horizon expanding, a heart growing, and the old orderly and rigid ways of her life slowly falling away. In her captivity she discovers a freedom of movement and thought denied to her as a Puritan woman. It is a freedom she will sorely miss when she returns to English society. She is frightened to discover that her rock-solid Christian faith, regimented by spoken prayers and long scripture passages, is failing her. In the end she tries to bargain with James Printer to stay with the tribe when her time to be ransomed arrives. PERSONAL INVOLVEMENT There is of course one other problem: Mary has developed feelings for James and the feelings are mutual. She is able to talk with him freely, expressing herself in ways she never could with her husband Joseph. She finds herself thinking of him and wishing to stay with him despite her status as a married woman. INNER TURMOIL Brown does an excellent job of presenting the moral dilemmas Mary faces both in her captivity and her restoration to the English. I struggled with her status as a slave and the cruelty she endured and yet rejoiced too at the unexpected generosity and kindness of the captors towards that slave. I empathized with Mary’s painful and yet exhilarating transformation as she grew to accept and then love her life with the Indians. I mourned as she was separated from James, the man she truly loved, having to return to the oppressive life she led with Joseph, whom she no longer loved. I felt her grief over Sarah and her concern for her other missing children, her longing to be back with the Indians and her surprising loss of personal freedom as she returned to her old life of repression, rules and propriety. I mourned the loss of her faith and her inability to transcend her Puritan ingraining which favored the letter of the law over than the spirit. While she was able to embrace that all peoples are children of God thus deserving respect and compassion, she could not see that God himself existed beyond the Bible and spoken prayers. TURMOIL OF A NATION The empathy did not stop with the individual characters. Brown expands that empathy to an entire nation of people who, because they lost King Phillip’s war to the English, had their way of life taken from them. Although Brown is equally honest regarding the horrific actions of both sides in the war, the consequences for the Indians prove to be the most heartbreaking. THE VALUE OF THE STORY The depth of research that went into the creation of Flight of the Sparrow was evident in the compelling and authentic telling of the story. Brown is not hemmed in by the facts but rather uses those facts as a means of letting her imagination create a multi-layered and emotionally satisfying story. The life journeys of Mary and James not only touch the heart but challenge the mind as well. Just as Mr. Emerson’s Wife exposed and expanded my narrow way of thinking, Flight of the Sparrow caused me to search my heart when it came to meeting and knowing people who are not like me. While Brown’s aim may have been to tell a story about a period she was not familiar with so that she could learn more about her herself and her New England heritage, she has provided that service to this reader as well.
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KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A historical fiction set in a time and place that I am not sure I have ever read - Mary is a wife of a pastor at a time when the man of the house is REALLY the man of the house.  She has blindly followed the path until her world is turned upside down by native americans who are pillaging towns and taking hostage the women and children.  She is taken into their home and her preconceived notions are shot to hell! My absolute favorite parts of this book were the moments where Mary was second guessing everything she thought she knew both about her own "people" and the native people.  Like many people she had never put herself "in their shoes" and in doing so found some perspective and saw the truths and falsehoods in the stories that the English settlers were sharing amongst themselves.  As a religious studies major in college, I loved the sociology of religion or in this case in societal groups and how one group can judge another before even understanding one another.  This book took me back to my college days and reminded me to keep my judgements in check.  
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting story and interesting characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago