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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
It’s always fascinating to see how an author has created an absorbing and informative story around some obscure historical person. That is what Beth M Caruso has done so very well in One of Windsor: The Untold Story of America’s First Witch Hanging. That so-called witch was Alice (Alse) Young, and by the time you close the book, you’ll shake your head and wonder how many other young women, who were convicted and hanged in the Salem witch trials in the late 1600s, were railroaded as Alice was. Historical fiction, yes, but based on very real and unfounded beliefs held against women as a result of religious extremism.
Despite the author’s extensive research into this era and into Alice, Beth M Caruso could find very little about her heroine. Hence, beginning with her birth in England and eventual move with her employers to New England, specifically Massachusetts, and later Connecticut, Caruso recreates a likely timeline for Alice, typical of young women in the 1600s. Alice is polite, sweet, a little shy, and in the new land she learns about herbs and natural healing through Indian women and her own employer. She marries, has a daughter, and life is reasonably good. She is loved by her original and adopted families, and appreciated by many for her gift of healing…until the pestilence (influenza) breaks out and people start dying all over the place. Alice’s life suddenly takes a very bad turn: betrayed even by those who supposedly love her, she becomes the scapegoat for the real evil-doers, and so ends a good woman’s life at the end of a noose. Tragic.
Through dialogue and storytelling by various characters, Caruso has woven a wealth of information about the life and times of this historical period into One of Windsor. The plot is solid, characters are realistic, and Alice is loveable. As much as this is fiction about bygone days, one comes away realizing how little has changed: a little knowledge is, and always has been, a dangerous thing; gossip destroys, and religious extremism causes untold harm. Enjoy!