In 1662 England, fifteen-year-old Susanna Thorn lives daily in the fear of her parents being arrested. Their crime? Quakerism. From a modern viewpoint, it is difficult to imagine what harm simple, honest, peaceful “Friends” could do. However, the right to worship freely did not exist in 1662 England. The church of England was THE religion. Those of other religious sects openly living their beliefs were at risk of persecution and even prosecution. The Quakers in particular, who believed in equality of class and gender, were a serious threat to traditional English society.
It is unsurprising, then, that Susanna’s story opens with her home being raided and her father imprisoned. With her family’s livelihood at stake, Susanna goes to work as a lowly print shop’s assistant in the local town of Hemsbury. Meanwhile, seventeen-year-old Hemsbury native Will Heywood is living under very different circumstances. The only son of a wealthy merchant, Will has just returned from London, where he received a classical education and now has plenty of opportunities awaiting him. So when Will meets Susanna and is drawn to her faith just as Quaker meetings are outlawed, his life seems to have taken the worst possible turn.
This riveting, bittersweet read had me thinking about the persecution members of my church (Mormonism) have faced and asking myself if I had the strength to follow my religion so unashamedly in the same position. In fact the severe, unending persecution these characters endured made it difficult to read. The simple, unadorned writing, however, made the pages fly by. Overall, a sweet story of young love amidst seemingly insurmountable obstacles.