Captivity is two stories: the strange, true tale of the Fox Sisters, the enigmatic family of young women who, in upstate New York in 1848, proclaimed that they could converse with the dead. Doing so, they unwittingly (but artfully) gave birth to a religious movement that touched two continents: the American Spiritualists. Their followers included the famous and the rich, and their effect on American spirituality lasted a full generation. Still, there are echoes. The Fox Sisters’ is a story of ambition and playfulness, of illusion and fear, of indulgence, guilt and finally self-destruction.
The second story in Captivity is one of loss and grief. It is the evocative tale of the bright promise that the Fox Sisters offer up to the skeptical Clara Gill, a reclusive woman of a certain age who long ago isolated herself with her paintings, following the scandalous loss of her beautiful young lover in London.
Lyrical and authentic—and more than a bit shadowy—Captivity is, finally, a tale about physical desire and the hope that even the thinnest faith can offer up to a darkening heart.
At the end of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel, The Scarlet Letter, we know that Pearl, the elf-child daughter of Hester Prynne, is somewhere in Europe, comfortable, well set, a mother herself now. But it could not have been easy for her to arrive at such a place, when she begins life as the bastard child of a woman publicly humiliated, again and again, in an unrelentingly judgmental Puritan world.
With a brilliant and authentic sense of that time and place, Deborah Noyes envisions the path Pearl takes to make herself whole and to carve her place in the New World. Beautifully written with boundless compassion, Angel and Apostle is a heart-rending and imaginative debut in which Noyes masterfully makes Hawthorne’s character her own.