Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Sally Gunning's latest novel is Bound.

She applied the Page 69 Test to the new book and reported the following:
A reader coming upon page 69 of Bound will discover a fifteen year-old runaway indentured servant named Alice Cole, who has just been taken in by Lyddie Berry, the widow from my previous historical novel, The Widow’s War. On page 69 Alice is re-learning how to spin, and as the spinning and weaving of cloth is one of the main metaphors that, if you’ll excuse the expression, weaves through the novel, I’d have to consider this particular passage well representative of the whole. Threads of different strengths bind Alice to the people and events of her past, present, future, and she must learn which threads should be strengthened and which cut. As she learns she goes backward, forward, backward, forward, making good decisions and bad, mimicking the working of the wheel:

She tested the wheel, rocking it back and forth to take its motion, and began. It took her some time to recapture the rhythm: three steps back and spin the wheel clockwise to twist the fleece into yarn, three steps forward and spin the wheel the other way to wind the yarn off the spindle; three steps back again to wind the yarn onto the bobbin. Backward, forward, backward. Backward, forward, backward. Alice’s fingers needed some time to adapt to the restriction in the palm, her aching shoulder wouldn’t rotate as fast as she’d have liked, and she walked many unneeded steps, but soon enough the roll of fleece began to draw down and the yarn to build up on the bobbin.

Alice’s courage, hopes, and fears, are also represented in this passage. She’s been physically abused by her previous master and must figure out how to work the wheel while protecting a badly burned hand; this she is determined to do in hopes of finding employment in the widow’s home. A gentleman boarder, Eben Freeman, sits nearby, and Alice keeps a careful eye on him, attempting to learn what he might think of her -- whether he might be a danger to her -- the men in Alice’s past have not been kind. Page 69 wraps up with a little eavesdropping on Alice’s part, as the widow and Freeman sit below talking while she climbs the stairs to her borrowed bed, and here again, we find another metaphor for the book as a whole. An indentured servant’s life is lived in total dependence on others; what they think, how they act, determines the quality of the servant’s life. Alice has taken a bold leap and set off to attempt to better her own life, but still she must hover on the stairs and listen, as her safety still depends on the natures of others. Alice’s task is to discover her own strengths, and page 69 foreshadows this as well.
Read an excerpt from Bound, and learn more about the author and her work at Sally Gunning's website.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue