The Purchase by Linda Spalding was the winner of the 2012 Governor General’s award. It is a profoundly powerful and moving book.
In 1798 Daniel Dickinson, a recently widowed Quaker man, marries his servant, a young Methodist girl, to care for his 5 children. He is subsequently shunned by his extended family and his community. He really has no choice but to pack up his 5 young children and leave. After purchasing land in the Virginia wilderness he attends a local auction to purchase tools. He mistakenly buys a young slave boy instead. Quakers do not believe in slavery, but Daniel has no alternative but to take him home. Daniel’s purchase sets into motion a string of events that will have tragic consequences for all those involved and their descendents.
After reading the book, I’m still not able to decide whether I like any of the Dickinson family, and I suspect I’m not alone in that. Daniel is a deeply flawed individual who raises troubled children in a time and place where choices have life and death consequences for them, their families, and all those around them. This is a book about love, loss, family, faith, betrayal, cruelty, and ultimately freedom and its cost.