Imagine what a judge at the Salem witch trials would be thinking, feeling, praying for? Judge Samuel Sewall is a Massachusetts colonist, father, and lawman navigating the well-described hardships of everyday life in the 1600s when he's asked to assist with the hysteria overtaking the town. Set in the time just before, during, and then four years after the trials, this deftly crafted novel perfectly balances issues of religion, faith, and law. The inner monologs are combined with conversations that Salem witch history aficionados will identify as correct in their narrative placement. (It helps that the author is also a biographer of Judge Sewall, having penned Judge Sewall's Apology.) A pivotal conversation between Sewall and Thomas Brattle halfway through the novel introduces doubt to the character's convictions, paving the way for Sewall's epiphanies about his role as father, within both his family and the community.
VERDICT Fans of Stacy Schiff's meticulous research of The Witches: Salem, 1692 and Oliver Pötzsch's solemn tone in The Hangman's Daughter will relish this well-imagined personal journey.