The Wolves of Andover
By Kathleen Kent
Gripping … paints a vivid portrait of colonial life in New England.
Although this is a work of fiction, Kent has done her research, delving deep into the history of Billerica and Andover, Massachusetts. She illustrates the hardships of everyday life in 1673 where death and superstitions were ever-present and people lived in constant fear of Indian attacks. The title is a bit deceiving because the book really focuses more on colonial Billerica and only touches upon Andover where the Allen family originates. I have seen other editions of this book with the title “The Traitor’s Wife” which in my opinion is more appropriate.
There are two stories, each start on opposite sides of the Atlantic.
The focus of the first story is on protagonist Martha Allen (Kent’s ancestor), later to be accused of Witchcraft in the trials of 1692. She is headstrong and is driven by sheer will. Kent sets the stage perfectly of the friction between Allen and her peers, specifically her cousin Patience (who is anything but) and her sister Mary. She assists both women in childbirth. The role of a colonial midwife is illustrated well in the novel. Martha is considered more of an indentured servant than kin to her cousin, and she does not seem to be regarded much higher in the house of her own sister. There is a gap in time between Martha staying with her sister and her cousin Patience that is not explained. At this crucial point the reader is left wondering what happened as the author does not refer to it again. It is at a critical part of her stay with Mary and in the next chapter she is back with her cousin. This could be an oversight or an editorial error.
The other story begins in the court of King Charles II in London, who, in the aftermath of the English Civil War hires a man to recruit killers to find the man who executed his father Charles I. Kent weaves an intricate tale of the sordid men that are enlisted to perform the task, and their journey to the new world. There are scenes in a tavern and aboard ship in which Kent does an exemplary job in detailing each of the unsavory characters. I was pleasantly surprised at the ship bound turn of events.
In this staunch puritanical era there is little romance, but one does blossom slowly throughout the novel with Allen and a Welch man, who is a hired hand on her cousins farm. These scenes are a sweet contrast to the harsh world in which Kent conveys in graphic detail. There is also nice camaraderie that unfolds throughout the book and is culminated in the ending that does a New Englander proud.
Andover Historical Society Note: Stay tuned for more information about an upcoming event featuring author Kathleen Kent! She’ll be traveling to Andover in October and we look forward to hosting her for a book signing and reading! Thanks to Deb Angelosanto for the great review!