I am delighted to have read The Last Pilgrim by Noelle Granger, and experience through her wonderful chronicle the tough and often perilous life of those first pilgrims to America.
About the book
This book captures and celebrates the grit and struggle of the Pilgrim women who stepped off the Mayflower in the winter of 1620 to an unknown world – one filled with hardship, danger and death. The Plymouth Colony would not have survived without them.
Mary Allerton Cushman was the last surviving passenger of the Mayflower, dying at age 88 in 1699.
Mary’s life is set against the real background of that time. The Last Pilgrim begins from her father’s point of view – she was, after all, only four when she descended into the cramped and dank living space below deck on the Mayflower – but gradually assumes Mary’s voice, as the colony achieves a foothold in the New England’s rocky soil.
What was a woman’s life like in the Plymouth Colony? The Last Pilgrim will tell you.
My review for The Last Pilgrim September 10th 2020.
This book is amazing. Not only is it wonderfully written with a great flow that carries you through the events of Mary Allerton Cushman’s long life, but because you feel you have stepped right into the lives of those first settlers to the New World four hundred years ago.
It is a novel that fictionalises the true story of Mary Allerton and her family, from the age of four aboard the Mayflower, through her long life to 1699, first in the words of her father Isaac and then Mary as she takes over the narration in her early teens.
It is a chronicle of a journey begun in Germany, as those who were persecuted for their beliefs made the decision to move to the Americas where they were promised they could practice their religions as they wished. Arriving in England they wait for passage with several failed attempts due to weather and unseaworthy vessels, before finally boarding the Mayflower. Of course even in the 1600s, money was also involved, and a deal was struck to fund the pilgrimage, with the expectation that trade goods would flow back to England in repayment of the loan. This placed an enormous burden on the fledgling communities on the east coast of America that was to last generations.
We travel with the 102 pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, where below decks families were crammed in to any available space with little food, no washing facilities or fresh air. This led to many deaths through disease and malnutrition with scurvy rampant. Babies were born and died, as did their mothers, and a much depleted group of men, with only a handful of women and their children landed in this unexplored New England.
This was not the good life, and without the help of the local native Indians it is unlikely that the remaining pilgrims would have survived. Sickness and their primitive living conditions led to more losses and it took several years for the colony to begin to thrive.
We share in their failures and successes through the next 75 years as demands from England continue to drain the economy. Relationships with both the Indian tribes and newcomers intent on land grabbing are tenuous, and their strict beliefs are tested on many occasions. There is no doubt that their presence in some areas displaced the indigenous people, and the introduction of European diseases resulted in thousands of deaths. But the author also shares the benefits of this coming together of two cultures, and the fact that a great many settlers formed long lasting friendships and trade agreements with their Indian neighbours.
The author knows the area intimately and even took part in the historical re-enactments of the period when she was a teenager. Combined with exhaustive research into the available writings of the time, Noelle Granger has recreated the life of this incredible group of migrants in great detail.
I particularly enjoyed the wonderful inclusion of the details such as the herbal remedies used for sickness and childbirth, the methods for preparing wild and cultivated crops, the making of candles and soaps and beer. The food was simple but the recipes for the dishes were enhanced by the many herbs that were grown for medicinal and seasoning purposes.
This is an intimate and detailed glimpse of the life of these early settlers and serves to remind us how privileged we are today with all our modern technology and medical advancement. Immigrants to a new country, particularly in this day and age, are looked upon by many with distrust and even hostility. But where would all of our countries be without these original settlers, who were not looking for adventure, but a safe sanctuary? Millions of Americans today can trace back their family trees to these early arrivals, and that is a testament to their forebears’ fortitude.
I can recommend the novel to anyone who enjoys well researched and written historical adventures based on true people and events.
Also by N.A. Granger
About N.A. Granger
Noelle A. Granger grew up in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in a rambling, 125-year-old house with a view of the sea. Summers were spent sailing and swimming. She was also one of the first tour guides at Plimoth Plantation. Granger graduated from Mount Holyoke College with a bachelor’s degree in Zoology and from Case Western Reserve University with a Ph.D. in anatomy. Following a career of research in developmental biology and teaching human anatomy to medical students and residents, the last 28 years of which were spent at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, she decided to try her hand at writing fiction. The Rhe Brewster Mystery Series was born.
In addition to the Rhe Brewster Mystery Series, Granger has had short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, published in Deep South Magazine, Sea Level Magazine, the Bella Online Literary Review, and Coastal Style Magazine, and has been featured in Chapel Hill Magazine, The News & Observer, The Boothbay Register, and other local press. Granger lives with her husband, a cat who blogs, and a hyperactive dog in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She spends a portion of every summer in Maine.
Thank you for dropping by today and I hope you will head over to buy Noelle’s book and enjoy. Thanks Sally.