Free Spirits (Ampersand, Inc. 2023)
Inspired by real events—the speeches of Victoria Woodhull in her efforts to amend the Marriage Laws, the trial of spirit photographer William H. Mumler, and P. T. Barnum’s American Museum–this is the story of an abused woman in 1865 struggling to become free and independent at a time when the richest and most independent women in New York City were prostitutes and many others, including spiritualists, circus freaks and even photographers and ministers, often profited through fraud and deceit. Read Chapter One…
Finalist, 2023 Pacific Northwest Writers Association Prize for an Historical Novel
Finalist, 2021 Tuscarora Prize from Hidden River Arts for an Historical Novel
An engrossing narrative rich with supernatural flair, societal conventions, and pre-industrial revolution culture.
I enjoyed this book and how the author weaved a story rich with lush imagery and extensive period details, particularly for P.T. Barnum’s American Museum. Set during tumultuous times amidst a social revolution, Reed does an excellent job with each detail, rewarding the reader with a vivid portrait of the time when women were seen as second-class citizens.
The focus on mysticism is also present throughout the book, which exquisitely presides over the storyline, seemingly like another character.
Though Daniella and Yale’s business blurs the boundary between belief and deception, the air of mystique surrounding their work is riveting. Reed masterfully assembles a consummate cast of characters, each lending a distinct thread to the narrative rather than simply serving as lackluster supporting figures. This is a polished commentary on 19th century societal conventions and traditional gender roles, with just the right amount of supernatural flair.