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TheBook club book- Widow's War-by Sally Gunning

The Widow’s War

By Sally Gunning

PBR Book Review:

This is well-researched and informative historical fiction. It takes place in Cape Cod in the year 1761 and follows the travails of Lyddie Berry, who is recently widowed. As is typical in this time period, when her husband drowns in a boating accident, Lyddie is entitled to use of one third of her husband’s estate, with the remaining going to the nearest male heir, which for Lyddie is her less than stellar son-in-law. Gunning creates a strong believable character in Lyddie and one I found myself rooting for. I think what I found so appealing about this woman and what made her so human, was that she tried to do what society expected of her, but in the end followed her heart, challenging the strict code of mores and fundamental views of the time. I truly appreciate the contribution that women like Lyddie have made to the freedoms today’s women enjoy and never tire of reading of their personal journeys. In summary, a must read for historical fiction aficionados or those who enjoy books about strong women who put up a good fight for what feels right to them, regardless of what society thinks.

Book Club Talking Points:

The main character of this story is very much alive and totally pulls the reader in with her forthright thoughts and actions. Since her husband’s trade of Whaling caused him to be away for long stretches of time, why does his death suddenly mean Lyddie is not capable of running her house by herself? There are also plenty of discussion points concerning the outlandish ways of the Puritanical Church which plays a major role in this story. Aside from women’s rights, issues of racial prejudice are also woven into this story. Recommend for book clubs that enjoy complex characters, layered storylines or historical fiction.

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*Author Website: http://www.sallygunning.com/

*Discussion Questions



1. Lyddie Berry, a woman very much of her time, ends up making a series of choices that put her at odds with the social, legal, and religious strictures of her time. What external and internal events cause this transformation? Do you think other women of this time, facing the same series of events, would have evolved in this same way? If not, what characteristics make Lyddie unique to her situation?

2. Are there other options that Lyddie ignores which might have peacefully achieved her goal of controlling her own destiny? If so, why do you think Lyddie ignores them?

3. What factors draw Lyddie Berry and Sam Cowett into their relationship? What factors cause them to back away? What parallels or contrasts do you see in the relationship between Lyddie and Eben Freeman?

4. Considering the time in which she lives, do you believe a long term relationship with Sam Cowett is a viable option for Lyddie? Does the relationship serve only as a source of physical comfort as Lyddie initially implies?

5. At one point Lyddie Berry blames Sam Cowett for alienating her from her religion. How fair is this a statement?

6. Considering the time in which he lives, do you believe Eben Freeman is forward thinking in regard to women?

7. What factors shape Lyddie's relationship with her daughter? How might they have acted to better protect the mother/daughter bond? Why don't they?

8. Sam Cowett claims that of the two Clarke brothers, Silas is the greater menace. Do you agree? Do you find any redeeming features in either brother?

9. Considering the methods of travel and communication in 1761, how do limited access and long delays affect the characters and events in this novel?

10. What is the actual significance of the Berry house in Lyddie's life? If the house had burned to the ground in the fire, do you think Lyddie would have been better able to accept living in her son-in-law's home?

11. If you were Lyddie Berry, what options would you have considered and which would you have rejected in order to make your way? Has Lyddie fully explored all her options? If not, why not?

12. Compare the political philosophies of Eben Freeman and James Otis. Who is the greater idealist? Is Lyddie an idealist or a realist?

13. If you were alive in 1761 America, how would you have responded to the ideas of James Otis? How do you imagine today's politicians would have responded to them?

14. How would you explain Lyddie's attitude toward Mercy Otis Warren and her accomplishments? How does

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)
Book Summary
Harper - January 30, 2007 - 336 pages - ISBN 0060791586
Married for twenty years to Edward Berry, Lyddie is used to the trials of being a whaler's wife in the Cape Cod village of Satucket, Massachusetts—running their house herself during her husband's long absences at sea, living with the daily uncertainty that Edward will simply not return. And when her worst fear is realized, she finds herself doubly cursed. She is overwhelmed by grief, and her property and rights are now legally in the hands of her nearest male relative: her daughter's overbearing husband, whom Lyddie cannot abide. Lyddie decides to challenge both law and custom for control of her destiny, but she soon discovers the price of her bold "war" for personal freedom to be heartbreakingly dear.
 
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