Nominated by:

Saint John Free Public Library, New Brunswick, Canada

Publisher of nominated edition:

Knopf, Canada

A Measure of Light

Beth Powning    

With Beth Powning’s trademark elegance and insight into the hearts and minds of unforgettable women, A Measure of Light brings to life an extraordinary historical figure.

Mary Dyer is a seventeenth-century Puritan who flees persecution in England, only to find the colony of Massachusetts Bay as dangerous as the country she left behind. Though she is the wife of a successful merchant and mother to their children, she becomes stigmatized following a birth gone terribly wrong and is reviled as a friend to the infamous heretic Anne Hutchinson. Mary tries to accept New England’s harsh realities, but is out­raged by the cold-hearted Puritan magistrates, with their doctrinaire stranglehold on church and state, their sub­jugation of women, their wars against the natives in the surrounding territories and their vicious treatment of any who challenge their rule.

Mary becomes one of America’s first Quakers. As both outcast and privileged citizen, caught between the call­ings of faith and the ambitions of her husband, she comes to the realization that she must follow her convictions in order to bring an end to the brutal repression of the Quakers in Massachusetts, for whom death by hanging is the ultimate punishment.

(from publisher)

About the Author

Beth Powning’s previous books include Seeds of Another Summer a collection of lyrical prose and photographs that celebrates the natural beauty of her New Brunswick home. Shadow Child, shortlisted for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction, is a memoir of coming to terms with the stillbirth of her first son. Edge Seasons, a Globe and Mail Best Book, is a personal memoir about transformation–about seasonal change within the natural world around her and in her life. Her previous novels are the bestsellers The Hatbox Letters and The Sea Captain’s Wife. In 2010, Beth was awarded New Brunswick’s Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for High Achievement in English-Language Literary Arts. She lives on a 300-acre farm near Sussex, New Brunswick, with her husband, the sculptor Peter Powning.

Librarian’s Comments

This fine example of literary historical fiction won the first New Brunswick Book Award for Fiction and was included in the Globe and Mail’s list of the top 100 novels of 2015. Powning’s elegant prose tells both the story of an extraordinary woman in a complex situation, and presents timeless and universal thoughts about faith, grief and intolerance. “This is a compelling novel that strikes at the heart of the human condition.” (Amanda Foreman, author)

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