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Photo Credit Jeep Wheat
"The rhetorical moves are unbelievable."
Sitting down to talk with Susan Stinson about 'Spider in a Tree' resulted in one of those great conversations that you just don't see coming. I loved the novel, and as Stinson and I talked we simply found a great joie de vivre speaking about her book, the history and Jonathan Edwards himself. It was like a tent revival for historical fiction writers and readers.
Of course, I have a rather peculiar take on the novel, as to me it reads like a historical fantasy. That is, the characters perceived their world as filled with beings and based on notions that we would find outlandishly fantastic. In a sense, they saw the world as the characters in a Tolkein novel might. They forest that surrounded them was the forest that terrified "Young Goodman Brown," filled with demons and temptations. As I explained my oddball take to Stinson, I could see that she had put those pieces in there deliberately for her readers.
Stinson has a lot of unexpected affinity with her subject. She lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, across the street from the graveyard where many of her fictional characters reside. Surprisingly, Northampton has not remembered Edwards kindly, and most of the first sources are elsewhere. Stinson and I talked about the research she did for this, which did involve consulting a lot of experts.