by Sally Gunning
Bound is a quiet novel, or at least it seemed so to me because there's not a lot of action. Most of the conflict takes place in a young girl's head, as Alice Cole worries herself over who to trust, how to keep her secrets, where to turn.... The story is set in Colonial times. Alice travels across the ocean with her family to the New World, but her mother and brothers take sick on the journey and when she arrives in New England her father is forced to sell his daughter into servitude to pay off his debts. She has to work for eleven years as an indentured servant. At first things go well; Alice is treated almost as one of the family, raised and taught alongside the family's daughter Nabby. But when the girls are grown, the remaining years of her service are transferred to Nabby, and the new household is not as kind to Alice. She is for the first time treated as a lowly slave, is abused by Nabby's new husband. Eventually things get so miserable that Alice runs away to Satucket, where she takes up with a widow who earns her keep by taking in boarders. Alice tries hard to prove her usefulness to this new household, while struggling to keep her secret: as a runaway servant she could be in serious trouble with the law if found out. But soon she has another secret to hide that's even harder to conceal than an obscured past.
For a book with such a quiet start; told most often in Alice's simple observations and wandering thoughts, Bound turns out to have quite a few heavy topics. I wasn't expecting it to deal with rape, or murder accusations. I wasn't expecting to end up reading about a trial- which was quite interesting, unlike most trial scenes that bore me. Although the story is about a quiet girl's life, trying to just evade trouble and live in peace, it's set against the bustling events of a small New England town. There's quite a bit of politics and local strife as the colonists struggle against English taxes; Alice becomes involved in spinning when they decide to boycott English goods and make their own cloth. Another thing I really liked about the story was seeing how Alice's character grew and her perceptions changed throughout the course of the year. She had a hard time at first learning to trust and understand other people's motives; I was quite surprised at how many times the man living with the widow forgave her indiscretions and mistaken judgements. I was glad she came to like a boy her own age and realize not all men were the beasts she had grown to fear. And I liked that the ending was kind of unexpected. All in all it was a good read.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 307 pages, 2008
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