Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery and Freedom

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Overview

Why would a runaway Virginia slave—having built a rewarding life in the East Indies as a silk merchant—risk everything by returning to America in 1840, eighteen years after taking her freedom?
Anibaddh Lyngdoh claims that she intends to introduce a new kind of silk to the floundering American silk industry. But her true reason, as her old friend Grace MacDonald Pollocke discovers, is far more personal. Grace, now a Philadelphia portrait painter, undertakes a perilous ...

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Original Sins: A Novel of Slavery & Freedom

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Overview

Why would a runaway Virginia slave—having built a rewarding life in the East Indies as a silk merchant—risk everything by returning to America in 1840, eighteen years after taking her freedom?
Anibaddh Lyngdoh claims that she intends to introduce a new kind of silk to the floundering American silk industry. But her true reason, as her old friend Grace MacDonald Pollocke discovers, is far more personal. Grace, now a Philadelphia portrait painter, undertakes a perilous investigation that leads to the discovery of old sins and crimes, and the commission of new ones. What laws may be broken—what sins and crimes committed—in the service of a higher justice? Deceit, forgery, fraud, perjury . . . even murder?
This novel thrillingly evokes a nineteenth-century America not so different from the present: a time of stunning new technologies and financial collapse, when religious and racial views collided with avowed principles of morality and law.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Though the era of American slavery is widely viewed with repugnance today, it's easy to forget the vehemence and eloquence with which slaveholding was condemned by 19th-century abolitionists, portrayed richly, but haltingly, in this second novel from Kingman (Not Yet Drown'd). In 1840 Philadelphia, Grace MacDonald, a Scottish portrait painter married to an American, is surprised by the arrival of an old friend and former slave, Anibaddh Lyngdoh, who escaped to the East Indies nearly two decades before. Seeing her friend risk her freedom to resolve her unsettled past--Anibaddh explains, cryptically, "I left something that I want to get"--Grace feels "obligated to do anything, everything, to help." To that end, Grace heads to a Virginia plantation, ostensibly to paint portraits of the women who live there, while secretly unearthing the fate of those Anibaddh left behind. As Kingman pulls Grace through an exceedingly intricate plot, she subjects readers to lengthy discussions of real-life American painter and presidential portraitist Gilbert Stuart, daguerreotype techniques, and basic chemistry. Despite some inventive turns of phrase and melodramatic revelations, Kingman's latest loses momentum long before the big Philadelphia courthouse conclusion. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Kingman's first novel, Not Yet Drown'd, was about Catherine MacDonald, a young Scottish widow raising her stepdaughter, Grace. This new novel begins in 1840, with young Grace now a wife, mother, and portrait painter living in Philadelphia. Grace is filled with joy when her husband returns from a successful trading trip to China, but she is soon bewildered to find that her old friend, the Rani Annibadh Lyngdoh, has stopped in Philadelphia as she and her sons travel from the East Indies to England. Annibadh is now a successful silk merchant, but she was once Annie, a runaway Virginia slave. What would prompt Annibadh to risk everything by returning to America? Grace knows this mystery is about much more than attempting to establish a successful American silk industry, and she is correct. VERDICT This novel is not fast-paced, but it is filled with intriguing details about life in 1840s Pennsylvania and Virginia, cultivating silk worms, and the daguerreotype process. And though it is not quite Civil War fiction, it should appeal to readers who enjoy American historical fiction and richly crafted and detailed novels in general.—Shaunna Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll., VA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393065473
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/9/2010
  • Pages: 428
  • Sales rank: 1,482,496
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Peg Kingman is the author of Not Yet Drown’d and Original Sins. Formerly a tea merchant and a technical writer, she lives in northern California.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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