Just in case you had the idea that this new novel is not about the Bonners themselves…there’s another short excerpt below (see “continue reading” at the bottom of this entry).
That will be the last excerpt, but please know that while the younger Bonners (Lily, Hannah, Jennet) play a large role in this story, Elizabeth and Nathaniel are still central.
Excerpt: Thunder at Twilight. Forthcoming Bantam Books. Copyright Sara Donati. All Rights Reserved: no part of this text may be reproduced in any way without express written permission of the author.
Early September 1812
Paradise, New-York State
Hot sun and abundant rain: Lily Bonner said a word of thanks for good summer and the harvest it had given them, and in the same breath she wished her hoe to the devil and herself away.
But there was no chance of escape. Even Lily’s mother, whose usual and acknowledged place was at her writing desk or in a classroom, had come to help; everyone must, this close to harvest. The women must, Lily corrected herself: the men were in the cool of the forests.
She glanced up and caught sight of her mother, all furious concentration as she moved along, swinging her hoe with the same easy rhythm as Many-Doves. There were an army of two marching through the tasseled rows, corn brushing shoulders and cheeks as if to thank the women for their care.
For all their lives Mohawk women spent the best part of every summer day in the fields tending the three sisters: corn, beans, squash. But Lily’s mother had been raised in a great English manor house with servants, and she had not held a hoe in her hands – white skin, ink stained fingers — until she was thirty. Elizabeth Middleton had come to New-York as a spinster, a teacher, a crusader; in just six months’ time she had become someone very different.
Lily understood a simple truth: the day came for every woman when she must choose one kind of life or another or let someone else make the choice for her. For some the crucial moment came suddenly, without warning and when least expected; others saw it approaching, pushing up out of the ground like a weed.
It was an image that would not leave her mind, and so she had finally spoke about it to her mother, holding the idea out in open palms like the egg of an unfamiliar and exotic bird.
And how it had pleased her mother, this simple gift. She sat contemplating her folded hands for a moment, Quaker gray eyes fixed on the horizon and a tilt to her head that meant her mind was far away, reliving some moment, recalling a phrase read last week or ten years ago. When she spoke, finally, it was not with the quotation Lily expected.
She said, “There are so many choices available to you, such riches for the taking. The very best advice I can give you is very simple. You have heard me say it in different ways, but I’ll put it as simply as I can. When it comes time to chose, try to favor the rational over the subjective.”
At that Lily had laughed out loud, in surprise and disappointment. Who else had a mother who would say such a thing, and in such a studiously odd way? Other people were satisfied with quoting the bible and old wife’s wisdoms, but Lily had a mother who preferred Kant to the proverbs. Who made decisions with her head when she could, and was convinced that in doing so, her other needs would be satisfied.
Certainly Elizabeth Bonner could point to even the most unconventional choices she had made in her life and argue that they were rational, and more than that: that she was happy with her choices. As most of the other women Lily knew were happy with the lives they had. Most, but not all. […]