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Read an Excerpt of
Flight of the Sparrow

This giveaway offer has ended. Thank you to everyone who commented, and congrats to RIFers Elizabeth C., Carol L., Lauren B., Sherri A., and Rebecca W. - their comments were selected at random to win a copy of Flight of the Sparrow!

Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1676. Even before Mary Rowlandson was captured by Indians on a winter day of violence and terror, she sometimes found herself in conflict with her rigid Puritan community.

Her home destroyed, her children lost to her, she has been sold into the service of a powerful woman tribal leader, made a pawn in the ongoing bloody struggle between English settlers and native people. Battling cold, hunger, and exhaustion, Mary witnesses harrowing brutality but also unexpected kindness.

To her confused surprise, she is drawn to her captors’ open and straightforward way of life, a feeling further complicated by her attraction to a generous, protective English-speaking native known as James Printer. All her life, Mary has been taught to fear God, submit to her husband, and abhor Indians. Now, having lived on the other side of the forest, she begins to question the edicts that have guided her, torn between the life she knew and the wisdom the natives have shown her.

From Chapter Two

In the winter of 1673 Mary’s father takes to his bed and dies the next May, just as the earth is greening. Joseph reminders her that she ought not to feel any sorrow, for surely her father was one of the elect. His wealth and influence in the community prove this, for God blesses the righteous with his favor.

He instructs her to pray for God’s peace to fall upon her and she does. But she also seeks the counsel of her sisters, who share Mary’s feeling that the world has become a strange and alien land, now that both parents are gone.

A year later, when Bess Parker’s son is nearly two, news comes that the Court has determined the child rightfully belongs to Deacon Park. Mary can barely contain her outrage.

Joseph tries to reason with her, explaining that the Court’s decision is just and final. That Silvanus is the son of a slave, and thus a slave himself. He assures Mary this is for the best, pointing out that Edmund can barely support his two children. How can he be expected to provide for the babe and raise him to adulthood?

Mary knows Edmund will fight the edict, for he dotes on his grandson. “It is evil to take a child from his mother!” she cries. All she can think of is losing her first child to a sweating fever on a cold January morning when the babe was the same age as Silvanus.

Mary had been a sweetly gentle child; even her death was gentle. Yet when she breathed her lasat, Mary did not want to hold her body, nor even touch it. She refused to look at the trundle bed where Hannah and Elizabeth had laid her out. She felt as a ship in the midst of a tempest, helpless before towering waves of grief. The wound to her heart has never healed.

“Calm yourself,” Joseph says, stroking her cheek. “Do not let sentiment master you. Is not self-control a fruit of the Holy Spirit?”

Mary cannot refute him, but her outrage does not subside. When she learns Joseph has been selected to lead the delegation of six men who will separate Bess from her son, she begs to accompany him.

“Bess will need some Christian comfort from another woman,” Mary insists.

But Joseph refuses, and will not be moved, no matter how much Mary prays and pleads. She waits at home while the monstrous deed is done. She cannot sit still, or concentrate on any task. She flits from one chore to another like a distracted girl. Row, agitated by her distress, flutters in the cage and emits loud, rasping cheeps.

When Joseph returns, he reports that Edmund barred the door, requiring the men to force their way in. “I tried to calm him,” Joseph says. “I assured him that I brought with me the peace of Christ and reminded him that he must do as the Court has ordered.”

Mary pictures the scene as he describes it – Edmund roaring that he will not allow them to take his grandson. The men breaking down the door, subduing Edmund and Bess. Seizing Silvanus. She imagines the boy, John, bravely trying to beat them off as Silvanus throws his head back and wails with terror. Bess, frantic and weeping as her babe is carried away to his new owner.

Mary can think of nothing to say to her husband, though she wants to ask why he agreed to participate in such a wicked enterprise. She believes he ought to fall to his knees and beg the Lord’s forgiveness. She prepares a basket of food – a beef pottage, a loaf of bread, turnips, and potatoes – and makes her way in secret to the Parker farm.

There is no calming Bess. She clings to Mary, sobbing and moaning, wetting her cloak all the way through. Mary wishes she could assure her that Silvanus will thrive, that he will be well cared for. Yet she does not know what will become of him. There can be no assurance that his owner will be kind – or even regard the boy as a child of God.

When Mary leaves, it is near twilight. She walks away with a stone in her heart. It seems that she can hear Bess all the way home, continuously moaning in the most broken voice Mary has ever heard: “Silvanus! Silvanus! Silvanus!”

Excerpted from Flight of the Sparrow by Amy Belding Brown. Copyright © 2014 by Amy Belding Brown. Excerpted by permission of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

About the Author

AMY BELDING BROWN is a graduate of Bates College, she received her MFA in 2002 from Vermont College, where she worked closely with Bret Lott and Victoria Redel. In 2005, her novel Mr. Emerson's Wife was published by St. Martin's Press and is now available in paperback. Her new novel, Flight of the Sparrow, is published by New American Library, a division of the Penguin Group, and is available in paperback wherever books are sold. Reach Amy online at  
  • Andrew Mork

    It looks like a good read, and from what I’ve read so far it definitely has peeked my interest. I would love to get a chance to read the whole book.

  • Martha Ericson

    Sounds intriguing! I would like to read this, because I want to find out what happens!

  • Carol Lawman

    What a hard life they had! Love to read books with the Native American Indian themes!

  • Tabitha Chitwood

    sounds good, I love historical novels!

  • Kristen Klemann

    Now I want to keep reading!

  • christine

    Would love to read more!

  • Cheryl Jacobo

    I so want to read the whole book

  • Ruthanne

    The premise sounds interesting, but is this an actual excerpt or a condensation? Seems like a lot of holes need filling – who are these people?

    • Kira, editor @ Read It Forward

      It’s an excerpt from a few pages into Chapter One … we wanted to give you something that would invite you to ask just those kinds of questions. Thanks, Ruthanne!

  • Christina Oseland

    I’ll have to put this in my TBR library

  • Cheryll

    Sounds sooo good ! I’d love to read this !!

  • Ro

    I enjoy historical novels and would love to win it! Thanks!

  • Michelle

    Historical novels are always interesting, and this seems to be different than the ones that I’ve read.

  • Jill Duellman

    I love historical fiction!

  • Mary B.

    The cover is gorgeous…this, all by itself, makes me want to read it from end to end!

  • Ashley Kingery

    Can’t wait to read more!

  • Patti D

    It catches my attention because it sounds like to have lost it all, being strong and beginning again- LOVE those stories as I can well relate.

  • Denise L.

    I would like to read more to get a better idea of the characters as their story develops in subsequent chapters. I was always fascinated about the North American Indian life and customs and it seems that this topic will be covered to some extend in this novel. Looking forward to reading this author, Amy Brown.

  • Geri

    Definitely peaks my interest. Deeply touching the heartstrings of a mother in this passage. I feel for the women already and the terrible sadness of losing her child. Makes me want to find out what happens next.

  • Amy C. Nickless

    I’ve wanted to read this novel based on the summary since the first Goodreads giveaway where I discovered it. I wanted to know how Mary dealt with her predicament. After reading the summary, I think the thing I want most to discover is what happens to Silvanus and his family.

  • Susan Gollaher Miller

    This book sounds great. I love historical fiction. What makes me want to keep reading this that is sounds like a story of a strong, faith filled woman. I also really like the Native American theme.

  • Gabi

    I love historical novels and this one seems to have an interesting point of view.

  • Claudia Jones

    I want to know what happens to Mary and whether her experiences as an Indian captive alter her spiritual beliefs in such a way that she could no longer accept, or be accepted by the Puritan community.

  • Lauren B.

    As a New Englander, I love any historical fiction set in my home.

  • Susan T.

    It is nice to see a book that presents the “Indians” in this time period as not just the enemy but as a spiritual community. I like to get both sides of the story!

  • Kayla Strickland

    I really want to read more. I love books where the main character has to question what they’ve always believed.

  • Rebecca W

    The desperation of the main character makes me want to keep reading to find out what happens to her! Love historical novels, and I haven’t read much from this time period so that’s exciting. Thanks for the chance to win!

    • Kira, editor @ Read It Forward

      Rebecca, my thoughts exactly when I started reading! This book gives such a rich sense of the period – definitely different than what I learned in school! And Mary is such a compelling heroine!

  • Kathy Black

    Love the excerpt. Would love to read the whole book.

  • Leah B.

    I have had a long fascination (since childhood) with what used to be termed “Indian captivity” stories. I can’t wait to read this!

  • Kim

    A part of our history about which we sadly know very little…..

  • Kimberly

    The excerpt seems very dry taken out of the larger context. It makes me wonder what the missing details are and if the rest of the book continues in this form or if it makes a more interesting larger picture than this excerpt portrays. Undecided.

  • HereWeGo_Again

    I love period books like this, and the people seem real and interesting.

  • peacesun

    I like historical fiction where I can learn more about the customs and times from the past. I visited Massachusetts as a youngster and as an adult, so seeing it through different eyes and ages is intriguing. I stayed on the Atlantic coast a decade ago and found Cape Cod and Falmouth in particular has had discussions about Indians and their lands. Belonging to two poetry workshops, I have a friend that writes of Indian lore and the moons and spirits.

  • Ruth

    I love historical fiction – especially from this period – can’t wait to read the ending.

  • Thu

    I love historical novels and the book seem promising.

  • Polly McKenna

    Looks awesome. I love historical novels, especially those that take place in Massachusetts, where I have lived my whole life.

  • Melissa Beck

    I love historical fiction and would like to read something during this time period.

  • pamrojo

    THe story follows a seldom used path – that is the path that is less followed. In the days surrounding this story a woman was no more than chatel. She had NO rights. Slavery wasn’t just a word to describe the life of the blacks brought from the wilds of Africa but every woman who married – often against her will – was literally sold to her new master – her husband (by right of dower). This story, from what I can read is about a strong woman, Mary Rowlandson, and her life, a life that was full of pain, sorrow, yet moments of joy as her fight reaps rewards. She opened her heart and her mind to a way that was foreign to her, the way of the Indian, and learned of the purity and strength these people learned through the brutalities they suffered, not unlike her own. I want to read this book to see how her tolling for the rights of women bore fruit and how her garden flourished. Please give me the chance to read this and other books offered in this prize. Thank you.

  • Laura Hess

    Love the cover. Historical fiction is my passion.

  • mems bicking

    sounds interesting

  • rdra

    love historical fiction!

  • Kathy S.

    I think I will have to read this book and her book Mr. Emerson’s Wife. Drew me into the story very quickly.

  • donnasquaw

    Great excerpt! I love reading about natives because I do have some Cherokee in me. I’ve always been interested in reading about how they live even though it’s stories. I love to read the whole book to see what happens to Bess’s son Silvanus and what happens to Mary and the rest. Thanks!
    Donna Harris

  • Paula Kamaus Twelmeyer

    I would like to read this book!

  • Laurie

    Sounds like an interesting read. Like historical novels. Would very much like to
    keep reading the rest of the story. Thanks for the chance to win!

  • Bridget

    I am interested in learning more about the women of the story and hearing their voices.

  • Daniel M

    I live in MA and always like to read about the area

  • A S

    sounds great – would love to read the rest

  • Rosa

    This sounds so interesting…would love to win this book.

  • Carolyn Clark

    I enjoy historical fiction

  • Diana

    great to learn about history , especially native americans

  • wendi114

    This is definitly on my “to read” list. I am a large fan of historical fiction and look forward to this book!!

  • June Little

    I want to read this to find out what happens to the boy, to his mother, grandfather, to Mary and Joseph and how this story works out in the end. What happens after her capture by the Indians??

  • Phoenixtl

    I’m very interested in historical fiction, & the lives of Native people at this time.

  • D-LC

    more please!

  • Ellen

    After reading the excerpt, I can feel the tension and I’m sure Mary will take a stand…but what will she do? What will happen to Silvanus? I really want to know, so I’d love to win this book!

  • Susan Vasi

    I’d love to readthis book. I’m interested in the Native American side of the story.

  • Debbie

    I love historical fiction and this sounds so good.

  • citygal65

    I recently read The Blue Tatoo about a white woman who lived as a captive among Native Americans and was then returned to her family. I am curious to see how this heroine’s experiences compare. In addition, my aunt’s apartment abuts Vermont College–lol

  • Stephanie Howard Skarohlid

    I like to read authors I am unfamiliar with

  • Abby Barbarita

    I love historical fiction and especially this time period

  • Elizabeth Coble

    I’m hoping that there will be more about this strong woman as the story progresses. And I think the name Silvanus is so interesting. I want to read the book to see where the future takes this young man.

  • Sbuxmedic

    Wow! This is a book I have to read. I kind of felt cheated when the excerpt ended. I wanted to know what happened next! I really want to read this book.

  • Sandra brewer

    I love historical fiction, thanks a lot.

  • Diana Gonzalez

    The character development and interaction appear to be a real treat to watch unfold. Just in this short excerpt, the author draws the reader in with internal monologues from Mary and a detailed description of emotions and events transpiring. I would very much like to read the whole novel.

  • Barbara Boyd

    I was intrigued with the idea that Mary would question her conventional treatment and upbringing. What a revelation it must have been to learn that there were vastly different ways for people tp live and believe. I find the possibility of exploring the outcome intriguing. I would very much like to read the book.

  • Leslie Pontious Kalmbach

    I love that Mary, in the end, does what she knows to be true. I am interested to see how the character transforms after her captivity.

  • Carrie Jones

    I love historical fiction. I’d love to keep reading to delve more into the relationship of Mary and her husband. What makes a spouse continue to support their other half, even when they so not agree with decisions made? I’d like to see how that plays out.

  • Liz013

    The date and time that this book takes place in shows the reader a very dark and shameful, but yet, fascinating time in our history. I would love to continue reading this book to see the story through Mrs. Brown’s writing.

  • Veronica

    Would love to finish reading this new historical fiction “Flight Of The Sparrow.” Since I’m in love with New England what a perfect place and time for the novel to take place.

  • Beatrice Pierre

    I love books about past history.

  • Donna

    I’d love to read this book. Seems to have a great insight into the past and how staunch and unjust the world was.

  • Marjorie

    Sounds really good. I’m hooked already – also want to know what happens.

  • NE Greenbee

    Very intriguing. It will be interesting to see how it plays out and if she still follows the Lord through her trials.

  • Sherri A.

    This fictional account of mary Rowlandson’s kidnapping and captivity sounds intriguing–I thought that she professed a strong faith in God even at the end of her memoirs(?) but it’s been years so perhaps I am dis-remembering…I would LOVE to read this version(and hehe, I am likewise a graduate of vermont College!). Would also love to get my abenaki friend Dale’s take on it…

  • Cindy Winters-Ciftcioglu

    Very Good. First time in a while I did not fall asleep reading or stop after the first paragraph.

  • Stephanie

    I love all historical fiction, and am now hooked into this one!

  • Shannon Hower

    Wonderful start to a book. Would love to read the entire book.

  • Bridget Myers

    Hmmmmm….would like to read more!

  • Birrichina

    So moving! The deep pain of losing a child and the contrast of a calm passing from illness to having a healthy child torn from the mother’s embrace. The suffering of mother’s not being able to protect their child from harm whether it be illness or society.