Grandmother’s Namesake by Jessica Marie Dorman and Cathy Lynn Bryant is the second book in their Unshakable Faith series. Like their first book, this mother and daughter writing team uses actual characters and events uncovered during their genealogical research as the basis for their novel. I chose the second book of the series because of its intriguing story line. The authors assured me that the book could stand alone and it does.
Set in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in the late 1600’s, Grandmother’s Namesake begins as young Susanna Jameson, named after her grandmother, secretly witnesses the elder Susanna’s hanging at the Salem witch trials. Haunted by the image and tormented by the events surrounding it, Susanna suffers a crisis of faith, not just in God, but also in those who she thought of as her neighbors and friends. We quickly learn that “Susanna viewed everything, from the time of the hangings forward, as though she were looking through a hangman’s noose,” but all of this is simply prologue to the actual story.
The book traces Susanna’s struggle to recover from her trauma and chronicles the love and support she receives from family and friends along the way. When she meets a soul mate and begins to fall in love, the events and secrets surrounding the hanging will haunt them both and threaten to tear them apart. Grandmother’s Namesake, however, is a historical romance, not a thriller. If you are looking for gratuitous sex, graphic violence or non-stop action, you will have to look elsewhere.
What most impressed me about the book was the co-authors’ ability to capture the life and culture of late seventeenth century New England. The language, which is constant throughout, feels authentic without burdening the reader with translating the nuances of old English. The actions of the characters, also consistent, connote a respectfulness that harkens back to a more gentile, refined period, where even lingering too long at a kiss on the hand would be considered crass. These Victorian sensibilities only serve to underscore the lunacy of the horrific events that set the story in motion.
At its core, Grandmother’s Namesake is the narrative of a faith quest that appears to reflect the deep personal beliefs of the authors. Those who elect to travel with them in this book will likely find it a worthwhile journey.
Author, Amanda’s Room