Quaker women in the eighteenth century were known as the First Women Feminist. Their strength in spite of tremendous adversity has been an inspiration to generations to come. Due to traumatic family circumstances, Rebekah Bradford is forced to sign an indentured servant contract to leave her home in London and work for a Philadelphia Quaker family.
Rebekah's journey through life takes her from servanthood, to wife and mother and businesswoman during a period when Quakers were struggling to maintain their identity as the colony attempted to find its place in history that was often in stark conflict with its founder, William Penn.
Ann Bell is insightfully accurate in her portrayals of 1700s England and the New World. You feel like you are doing the living in the middle of the many deadly dangers and unexpected opportunities awaiting around the next corner. Just when things appear hopeless, a way through opens. Just when things appear to be going great, the bottom drops out. These developments are revealed in ways that all of us find familiar and believable. Her characters truly live for us and we care about them. The times they live in are analyzed with a simplicity and genuineness which is impressive to read. She gets the tensions right between the Quakers and non-Quakers (including Ben Franklin), and between the Quakers and Quakers. The people ebb-and-flow in their moral development and wisdom. Issues of romantic competitiveness, finding your way in a profession, combatting severe depressions, treatment of minorities, using political influence, and child-rearing are raised in thought-provoking ways. Ann Bell accurately depicts the Quaker society and its challenges in a manner which sheds light on the similar challenges which continue to beset Quakers of our modern times. Those Quakers sowed the seeds which bless and bewilder us today. What a great way to live history and ponder social interactions which are ever present. The Quakers of colonial England and the new world had a major influence on how the Western world developed, and Bell has effectively introduced us to it. There is much more to reveal, and it is to be hoped she will continue in telling us more about the Quaker influences and quandries, and making them come alive.
Rebekah's Journey: An Historical Novel
It is difficult to find a fact filled historical English-American 18th Century novel with an easier read and more complicated adventure story than Ann Bell's 2010, Rebekah's Journey. A true love story with a strong American beginning is hard to put down.
From a painter's eye the Indigo blue cover and book design show the story is not a sky-blue empty tale. Rebekah's modest and impoverished fourteen year old personality misses her family and fears years of indentured servitude.
The 1700 departure from London on The Good Hope ship for Philadelphia established the valued friendship qualities of the Quakers and their ship mates. Anglicans and Puritans found the strict religious Quaker beliefs difficult to understand. The value of silence and reflection endeared most travelers with a soothing calmness contrasting the worrisome unexplained ocean and shipboard noises. The need for strength without conflict and limited allegiance to non-believers was sometimes questioned.
William Penn's gift to settlers in Philadelphia enriched the Quakers development and growth as a major American city.
Benjamin Franklin's contribution adds greatly to Rebekah's tale. Political activity was needed. Conflicts with Indian tribes and growth of industry and education were pressing issues.
The personal stories, which color Rebekah's life until 1723, share births, deaths devoted friendships, charity and reunions. Her ability to love and cope is well told by Ann Bell. Her future as a promising dedicated citizen of Philadelphia may be told.
Could the bonnet tied fourteen year old girl in her gray apron and simple dress have learned great lessons of industry from her father's hands as she helped in his cobbler's shop? Could remembering the cobbler who refused to fight for the originate a sequel?
More than a Summer Read.....
Rebekah's Journey is a moving and inspiring testament to not only the faith and frustrations of Quaker immigrants, but also to the ability for us all to measure determination,revenge, and desire into one's reason for living. The reader is immediately drawn into Rebekah's life through a colorfully, descriptive narrative that creates a sincere interest to turn the page, complete the next chapter, and look for the resolution that the author has artistically woven into the plot and characters that make up the journey Rebecca is drawn to live.
The story is intriguing, fast moving, and based on the underlying support of the ability of faith to guide and provide for life's hardships and blessings. The characters are realistically drawn and completely developed through their interactions and the author's insight and subdued point of view.
Rebekah's Journey will be more than a summer read. It will leave the reader with a renewed sense of purpose and a wonder of the strength of faith in our own lives today. I strongly recommend Rebecca's Journey to be your journey and
that you share the emotions that Ann Bell has created with this, her latest work.