Love’s Pursuit by Siri Mitchell takes place in a Puritan community in Stoneybrooke, Massachusettes. Susannah Phillips outwardly is a model of Puritan goodness and righteousness, but inwardly she almost constantly wrestles with wrong desires and motives.
A perceived threat of Indian attack leads the government to send a captain out to protect the community and train the men to defend themselves, and his “heathen” dress and ways stand out. The captain boards with Susannah’s family, and at first his talk about God, so different from her understanding, seems foolish to her. But gradually some of what he says begins to penetrate her thinking and make her wonder if what he says is true.
The captain unsettles not just her religious thinking, but her romantic notions. She is almost engaged to John Prescotte, but the captain makes his interest clear.
Furthermore, town leader and most eligible bachelor Simeon Wright shows an unwelcome interest in Susannah as well. Though outwardly Simeon is the epitome of Puritan manhood, there’s something not quite right about him from the very beginning.
A subplot concerns a young goodwife named Small-hope, rescued from an abusive home by her husband, yet holding herself protectively away from him as well as the rest of the community. Will the need to save someone else propel her from her shell, or will she stay safely retreated?
The story doesn’t go where one thinks it will at first: in fact, the climax almost had me wailing out loud, “Noooooo!!!!” But I think it underscored that the “love’s pursuit” Susannah most needed was not man’s, but God’s.
Love’s Pursuit is no featherweight romance. Siri Mitchell has done a marvelous job drawing the characters and portraying Susannah’s inner turmoil in her relationship with God and man as well as the problems of living in a community where one’s righteousness is based on performance and keeping the rules.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)