"It was days before Mother finally answered my questions: 'Did I love you then? I loved no one, Pearl. No soul on earth.'"
Hester Prynne, scorned woman of THE SCARLET LETTER, speaks these words to her daughter at the beginning of ANGEL AND APOSTLE. She dutifully wears her "A," branding her an adulteress, forever atoning for a sin she did not commit. She wears it with something almost akin to a haughty pride. She is not one to make excuses, for she wants her child to understand the ways of the world. It is an unjust age Pearl is born to.
But how does a mother love this child, this unwanted child, who reminds her constantly of a shame that she will bear to her grave? A wild young thing, willful and sassy, a hard child to love in the best of times. It takes a while, but she does. She finally does.
Pearl narrates the story as she grows awkwardly through her adolescence. Fortunately, she has a fine and peculiar friend named Simon, a blind lad whose world Pearl falls into. They form a tender bond, fragile and strong at the same time. Their friendship, if that is all it truly is, sees them through many years --- and is the cause of many tears.
ANGEL AND APOSTLE is a journey through a harsh time when men kept a host of mistresses with society's tacit sanction, yet a woman would be in the stocks for one night's dalliance with a lover. A fallen woman, Pearl's mother carries her past heavily, while Pearl struggles reluctantly to womanhood. The daughter bounces between contempt and love for her mother, until at last she appreciates the injustices her mother endured, as she becomes a wife herself.
Written as Deborah Noyes envisions Nathaniel Hawthorne writing it, this small saga reads larger than its 304 pages. While a dark tale, sad and poignant, it is a tale of ultimate enlightenment.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on December 22, 2010
Angel And Apostle