by Teresa Irizarry

"I did not come here to be caught up in ceremony. I came here to minister to souls, including native souls."

History is brought to life in Irizarry’s meticulously detailed and energetically imagined novel. She follows a huge cast of characters as they leave England behind for the promise of a better life and a less shackled way to practice their religion. Roger Williams, the founder of both the colony of Rhode Island and the first Baptist church in America, is the primary protagonist. His is a story as much about courage and perseverance as it is about faith.

Covering a period of time from 1608 to 1644, Irizarry immerses the reader in religious practices and perils of the times. English kings were demanding fealty in matters of faith as well as law. The separation of church and state was hotly debated and often resulted in prison and worse for those who refused to acquiesce to authority. In the old world and the new, disparate factions of believers were warring among themselves over right and wrong ways to worship.

While scholarly in content and documentation, Irizarry is not averse to painting with a colorful brush, especially as it relates to the extraordinary experiences people were caught up in at the time. She does a first-rate job of filling her narrative with the horrors disease and pestilence wrought, the dangers frequently faced by marauding pirates and warring tribes, plus the joy and sorrow of births and deaths families dealt with continually. This is a well-researched and written historical novel—pointillist in style, perhaps—but with big picture impact and as adventurous as it is informative.

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