In the epilogue of Nancy E. Turner’s My Name is Resolute, our narrator, Resolute tells us:
Many men I have known in my life will be written about and remembered for the deeds they have done these many years since the colonies loosed their bonds. My story is the story of other women like me, women who left no name, who will not be remembered or their deeds written, every one of them a restless stalk of flax who lent fiber to the making of a whole cloth, every one of them a thread, be it gold, dapple, crimson, or tarred. Let this tapestry be a recorded, then, that once there lived a woman, and that her name was Resolute. (585*)
I can’t think of a better way to introduce this book other than to let Resolute’s words speak for themselves.
Resolute’s story begins in Jamaica, in 1729. Her parents own the Two Crowns Plantation at what will later be known as Montego Bay. One night in late September, their idyllic life is destroyed when pirated attack the plantation. Resolute, her siblings, and her father are captured. Their mother is murdered. The ship takes them north so that the captives can be sold into slavery in the American colonies. Along the way, the pirates are attacked by yet more pirates. Resolute’s father is killed. Her brother, August, signs on to escape the fate that awaits his sisters. Resolute survives mostly due to the actions of her older sister, Patience, who is much more savvy about the world than her ten-year-old sister.
Throughout the 1730s, Resolute and her sister are sold over and over again. They work as slaves for “Reformed Puritans,” are captured by Native Americans, then sold to an Ursuline convent in Canada. Resolute is not a biddable child and her masters are rarely kind. She never really learns to master her temper, in spite of everyone’s best efforts and advice. Patience arranges for them to escape with the tribe that brought them to the convent in the first place and the two flee to Massachusetts. Patience, however, chooses to stay with the tribe and marry her rescuer. Resolute is abandoned near a farm on the outskirts of Lexington.
During her years of slavery, Resolute has only had one goal: to get back to her mother in Jamaica. No matter what anyone tells her, she refuses to believe that her mother is dead. Still, she lands in luck in Lexington. Her kindness to a madwoman, Goody Carnegie, shunned by the community leads to her inheriting a house and 420 acres of farm and woodland. Her honesty wins her a friend in Lady Spencer after the Spencer heir jilts Resolute. Goody Carnegie advises Resolute to make her living as a weaver, telling her that she can’t be sure what awaits her in Jamaica—especially after the Crown repossesses the family plantation when no heirs can be found.
In Massachusetts, Resolute finds love, family, home, a livelihood, friends—a full, rich life. The years spin by with babies and building with her husband, Cullah MacLammond. Cullah is the son of a Jacobite and never forgot that the Crown sentenced him to hang when he was just eight years old. He grows infuriated with the increasingly unfair and ruinous taxes inflicted on the colonists. His Jacobite sympathies lead him to become one of the first Patriots. Resolute involves herself in the cause, much to her husband’s fear and fury. By 1775, they are in a position to play an incredibly important role in the opening shots of the American Revolution.
As she did in her novel These is My Words**, Turner plays the full range of human emotion. In the course of My Name is Resolute, our heroine sees revenge, love, violence, success, injustice, prejudice, joy, sorrow, and much more. You will be exhausted by the time you finish the book because you will have lived a whole life with Resolute. I haven’t run into a character recently who so fully embodies the old curse, “May you live in interesting times.”
* Quotation from the 2014 hardback from St. Martin’s Press.
** One of my absolute favorite novels.