An indentured servant finds herself bound by law, society, and her own heart in this novel set in colonial Cape Cod from the author of acclaimed The Widow’s War.
Indentured servant Alice Cole barely remembers when she was not “bound”, first to the Morton family, then to their daughter Nabby—her companion since childhood—when she wed. But Nabby’s new marriage is not happy, and when Alice finds herself torn between her new master and her old friend, she runs away to Boston. There she meets a sympathetic widow named Lyddie Berry and her lawyer companion, Eben Freeman. Impulsively stowing away on their ship to Satucket on Cape Cod, Alice finds employment making cloth with Lyddie. Yet as Alice soon discovers, freedom—as well as gratitude, friendship, and trust—has a price far higher than she ever imagined.
In Gunning's latest colonial page-turner, seven-year-old Alice Cole travels with her family from 1756 London to the New World, dreaming of a big house in Philadelphia and a new life. Her mother and brothers die on board and are buried at sea; the ship docks in Boston rather than Philadelphia; there, her father indentures her for 11 years without a backward glance. Alice does housework for the family of Simeon Morton of Dedham, in whose house she is treated almost like a second daughter, becoming constant companion to 10-year-old Abigail, or "Nabby." When Nabby marries Emery Verley of Medfield, Alice's indenture is signed over to him, but the Verley household turns out to be an abusive one. Alice flees and winds up on Satucket, Cape Cod, where Lyddie Berry, heroine of Gunning's The Widow's War, and her companion, the lawyer Eben Freeman, give her shelter and a job. Alice works hard for them, and they grow fond of her, but when Alice discovers she's pregnant, she embarks on a journey of deceit and lies, one that comes to a bitter end. Gunning weaves a horrifying, spellbinding story of colonial indenture's cruelties and a meditation on the meaning of freedom.