Last weekend I finished The Sea Captain’s Wife by Martha Hodes. One of my co-workers just raved about it. It is an interesting story about a young woman in New England who is always on the brink of poverty. It seems that whenever she makes a life change that might lift her into the middle class, something catastrophic happens and she is once again struggling to make ends meet. Hodes is a historian and she reconstructed the story of Eunice Richardson from her letters that are in the archives at Duke University. Although some of the book is speculation, the facts are quite interesting. Eunice worked in the mills in Manchester, NH until she married. Her husband was a carpenter, but he couldn’t find steady work, so he moved to Alabama. Eunice moved down with him with their son until just before the Civil War at which time she moved back North. Her husband joins the confederate army and her brothers fight for the Union. She tows her daughter along with her as she cleans houses and often has to call on family for help. I might add that it seems that her family members are not all so willing to help. Sometime after she mourns the death her husband, she marries Smiley Connolly a sea-captain from the Grand Cayman Islands. There she finds real happiness, despite her homesickness, and economic stability. And that’s where the story behind the story begins. It seems that her brother disapproved of her marriage and never spoke or wrote to her again. As he rose up the economic ladder, he erased Eunice from his family tree. One of the more interesting parts of this book, was the chapter in which Hodes discusses how she did her research.
I enjoyed this book, but it took me a long time to get through, so I immediately picked up some YA fantasy as a little break before I start Moby Dick again. Holly Black’s books Tithe and the sequel Ironside, were a lot of fun. Not quite as dark as I feared which was good. the second book was not quite as fun as the first, because one of the main characters, Roiben, just doesn’t get enough airtime. I grew to really like him in the first book and though he is central to the second, he is much more distant. There isn’t the same tension in the first book between Kaye (the main protagonist) and Roiben. Still they were fun to read.
Off to reintroduce myself to Captain Ahab and his crew. Interestingly enough, the lastest episode in NPR’s In Character series was about him.