cover image The Iceweaver

The Iceweaver

Margaret Lawrence. William Morrow & Company, $24 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97621-8

Set in post-Revolutionary War New Forge, N.Y., Lawrence's fourth historical drama (Hearts and Bones; Blood Red Roses; The Burning Bride) resumes the story of Jennet, deaf daughter of the author's previous heroine, Hannah Trevor, and adds the saga of John Frayne. The elegant and lyrical tale ingeniously knits together everything from mapmaking lore and American history to accounts of faithless wives and broken souls. In dreamy backstory sequences interspersed with present action, surveyor and mapmaker Frayne, sent away by a wife who desires another man, abandons his young son and heads west. Mistaken for a Hudson Bay Co. spy by traders on the Missouri River, Frayne is brutally tortured and left for dead in the wilderness. When he is rescued by Indians, he marries the beautiful Tacha and lives peacefully until tribal jealousies force him to barter for his life. Separated from Tacha, the heartsore Frayne returns to New Forge to find his ancestral home burned to the ground. Jennet, a victim of rape and about to be sold into slavery, is living in the burned-out house. The two wounded souls are drawn to each other, and are looked after by an expatriate Frenchman, Marius Leclerc. Frayne sets out to find his wife and their child, Tim. The boy is living happily with his mother and her new husband, Jacob Benet, but has been taught to detest the memory of his father. Though slander, treachery and petty jealousies whirl around them, Frayne's friends and relatives reach out to one another, learning the power of old stories and forgiveness. Lawrence's subtle lyricism is evident whether she is writing dialogue or narrative, and she skillfully weaves bits of the ancient tale of Odysseus's homecoming into her story. The novel may be the fourth in a saga, but it reads as a stand-alone piece, equipped with unforgettable characters and powerful poetic imagery. (July)