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Mary Kronenwetter
Author
Pauper Auction

Adult; General Fiction (including literary and historical); (Market)

A gorgeous and meticulously-researched historical fiction examining a young woman’s struggle to escape unexpected poverty and find autonomy and purpose in early New England. Mankind are always seeking after happiness in some way or another. ~ Leavitt’s Farmer’s Almanac, 1805 The fall from beloved wife of the town blacksmith to widowed pauper was swift. Margery Turner sits in the Thorneboro, New Hampshire Meetinghouse on the second Tuesday of March, 1805. She and the other indigent town residents wait their turn to be auctioned out to the lowest bidder who will accept the paupers into their homes in return for town funds. The young widow and an abandoned child named Agnes find themselves taken in by farmer and ciderist Samuell Wheeler and his elderly mother, renowned bed rug maker Hannah Wheeler. Margery swears to herself that she will not forever remain a pauper in purse or purpose. Secrets and sorrows live on the prosperous farm. An itinerant Abenaki stonemason, Sozap Wzôkhilain, known as Joseph, joins the household and touches each of their lives in unexpected ways. The farm is the setting for danger and tragedy as well as simple joys and blossoming love. In PAUPER AUCTION, strangers become friends, confidantes, and lovers. Tragedy becomes hope, and a family of the heart help each other find their futures, together and apart. In Pauper Auction, rich and sensory atmospheric period description and a strong sense of New England enhance the immersive narrative. Meticulously researched details of early 19th century foodways, and the crafts of blacksmithing, traditional stone wall building, needlework, and hard cider-making bring Margery’s world to life. The novel is a perfect bookclub pick with themes that transcend time. A significant Afterword and Discussion Questions are included in the book.
Reviews
Kronenwetter’s impressive debut follows the uncompromising lives of a destitute widow, a disabled child, and a Native American stonemason. In 1805 in the fictional town of Thorneboro, N.H., the local blacksmith’s widow, 27-year-old Margery Turner, waits to be auctioned to the lowest bidder in exchange for subsidized labor. As the town’s moderator explains, “It is our civic and Christian responsibility to provide for the care of our town’s unfortunates.” Charitable farmer Samuell Wheeler is the winner, at one dollar a week. Samuell also takes in 10-year-old club-footed Agnes, who was abandoned by her widowed father. Margery works on the farm, aids Agnes and Samuell’s rheumatoid-stricken mother Hannah, and learns how to make Hannah’s elaborate bed rugs. When Joseph, an Abenaki stonemason, joins them, he brings friendship and wisdom, especially after tragedy strikes. With portentous forecasts from the Farmer’s Almanac in the chapter headings (“uncertain,” “settled,” “foul”), Kronenwetter’s domestic narrative paints a convincing day-to-day picture of early America, immersing readers into the stark realities of farm life and meeting halls. Fans of historical fiction ought to take a look. (Self-published)

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