The best books on New England’s forgotten conflict

Who am I?

I write historical fiction set in New England and based on the lives of real people. My New England roots go back to the 1630s when my English ancestors first came to the region so I’m steeped in its traditions and literature. I love doing the research for my books, especially when my characters lead me in new directions. I spent ten years digging into the conflict between the Puritans and the indigenous Natives and in the process discovered a largely forgotten story that has long-lasting implications for our day.

I wrote...

Book cover of Flight of the Sparrow: A Novel of Early America

What is my book about?

In the midst of King Philip’s War, Mary Rowlandson is captured and sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, where she becomes a pawn in the bloody struggle between English settlers and natives. As she battles cold, hunger, and exhaustion, she witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness. She’s drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life and disturbed by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native.

All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she questions the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom she’s discovered among the Natives.

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The books I picked & why

Caleb's Crossing

By Geraldine Brooks,

Book cover of Caleb's Crossing

Why did I love this book?

When Caleb’s Crossing came out I couldn’t wait to read it. Not only was it written by one of my favorite authors, it was inspired by a true story and set in the same place and time period as the novel I was working on. Brooks’ depiction of the love between a Puritan minister’s daughter and the son of a Wampanoag leader is fraught with tension as two very different cultures collide. The novel brings to life the forces driving the conflict through the characters of Bethia and Caleb as they struggle to navigate a perilous time and the looming prospect of war.

By Geraldine Brooks,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Caleb's Crossing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A bestselling tale of passion and belief, magic and adventure from the author of The Secret Chord and of March, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Bethia Mayfield is a restless and curious young woman growing up in Martha's vineyard in the 1660s amid a small band of pioneering English Puritans. At age twelve, she meets Caleb, the young son of a chieftain, and the two forge a secret bond that draws each into the alien world of the other. Bethia's father is a Calvinist minister who seeks to convert the native Wampanoag, and Caleb becomes a prize in the contest…

Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War

By Nathaniel Philbrick,

Book cover of Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War

Why did I love this book?

Mayflower is a brilliant and comprehensive account of the first fifty years of Puritan settlement in New England, culminating in King Philip’s War, the bloodiest war, per capita, in American history. That conflict effectively marked the end of the English effort to live amicably with Native peoples and initiated a policy of subjection, domination, and erasure that continues to this day. In readable prose permeated with fascinating historical information, Mayflower presents a riveting account of the English colonization of New England.

By Nathaniel Philbrick,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Mayflower as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Nathaniel Philbrick, bestselling author of 'In the Heart of the Sea', reveals the darker side of the Pilgrim fathers' settlement in the New World, which ultimately erupted in bloody battle some fifty years after they first landed on American soil.

Behind the quaint and pious version of the Mayflower story usually taught in American primary schools is a tumultuous and largely untold tale of violence, subterfuge and epic drama.

For amidst the friendships and co-operation that sprang up between the settlers and indigenous people, whose timely assistance on more than one occasion rescued the Pilgrims from otherwise certain death, a…

Book cover of The Name of War: King Philip's War and the Origins of American Identity by Jill Lepore

Why did I love this book?

When I was researching my novel, I read many books on King Philip’s War, and Jill Lepore’s The Name of War is the best by far. Written in a readable prose style, and filled with detailed descriptions of events, the book riveted me from the first page. I also found myself returning to it time after time for clarification and specific information. I love the way it takes a deep dive into the origins and unfolding of the hostilities as well as looking at its long-lasting aftermath. It also includes a compelling account of Mary Rowlandson’s captivity and release as well as tracing James Printer’s activities.

By Jill Lepore,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Name of War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

BANCROFF PRIZE WINNER • King Philip's War, the excruciating racial war—colonists against Indigenous peoples—that erupted in New England in 1675, was, in proportion to population, the bloodiest in American history. Some even argued that the massacres and outrages on both sides were too horrific to "deserve the name of a war."

The war's brutality compelled the colonists to defend themselves against accusations that they had become savages. But Jill Lepore makes clear that it was after the war—and because of it—that the boundaries between cultures, hitherto blurred, turned into rigid ones. King Philip's War became one of the most written-about…

Book cover of Our Beloved Kin: A New History of King Philip's War

Why did I love this book?

Our Beloved Kin is a unique account of King Philip’s War that centers on the history of Native resistance and their experience of the conflict. Drawing on early documents and information often overlooked in previous studies, the author, a member of the Missisquoi Band of Abenaki, presents an in-depth chronicle of the war and the events leading up to it. I wish this book had been in print when I was researching my book. While it wouldn’t have changed the basic arc of the novel, it would have given me a more complete understanding of James Printer’s perspective.

By Lisa Brooks,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Beloved Kin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner of the 2019 Bancroft Prize: A compelling and original recovery of Native American resistance and adaptation to colonial America

"By making what we thought was a small story very large indeed-Ms. Brooks really does give us 'A New History of King Philip's War.'"-The Wall Street Journal

"Provides a wealth of information for both scholars and lay readers interested in Native American history."-Publishers Weekly

With rigorous original scholarship and creative narration, Lisa Brooks recovers a complex picture of war, captivity, and Native resistance during the "First Indian War" (later named King Philip's War) by relaying the stories of Weetamoo, a…

Book cover of The Sovereignty and Goodness of God: A Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson

Why did I love this book?

Mary Rowlandson’s narrative of her captivity experience with Native Americans during King Philip’s War was one of the first bestsellers in the English colonies. And it’s the first published “captivity narrative” in what was to become a popular American literary genre. Rowlandson’s book is a fast-moving and dramatic account that describes in detail the attack that destroyed her home and culminated in her capture. She includes a harrowing account of carrying her fatally wounded daughter on an arduous journey, her despair when her daughter dies, her struggles to survive among people she’s been taught to revile, and her eventual ransom and release. This book has long been one of the most important primary sources documenting Native culture in New England at the time of English colonization.

By Mary Rowlandson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Sovereignty and Goodness of God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Considered the first American "bestseller", this early captivity narrative follows Mary Rowlandson's three month holding by the American Algonquian Indians. The first by an Anglo-American woman, Mrs. Rowlandson's "Narrative" remains a classic. Captivating to readers since its initial publication in 1682, this account presents a unique perspective on transcultural interaction between early American settlers and their Native American counterparts. Following King Phillip's War, Mary and her three children were seized by Algonquian Indians in her town of Lancaster, Massachusetts. What ensued is a harrowing journey of tremendous hardship up to her release per ransom. Rowlandson integrates Puritan ideologies and Biblical…

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