book review

Review: Beheld by TaraShea Nesbit

Beheld is an insular, quickly-paced novel of Plymouth Puritans in the 17th century. The story is predominantly told is brief, vignette-type chapters from the points of view of Alice Bradford, the governor’s wife, and Eleanor Billington, a non-Puritan resident of Plymouth whose husband gets caught up in a murder scandal.

The Puritans and non-Puritans are perpetually caught in a struggle of ideology, yet must live side by side to survive in the colony. While Eleanor and her husband rail against the hypocrisy of the Puritans and their elders, Alice has faith and trust in her husband as a man of God. Eleanor observes the ill treatment of the indigenous populations, and the ever-present grim reminder of the head of a pike in the settlement, yet Alice views the native populations as “savages.”

These two conflicting points of view on the same subject matter, in the same location, was interesting to explore. Beheld delves into the divide between those who boldly question and those who blindly follow.

I found the novel to be almost too short, the chapters too brief to truly get to know each woman. What we are given, however, is little details dispersed throughout that contest the view of rigid, God-fearing people–especially women. Nesbit’s writing style is straight forward and thoughtfully wrought, but brief. Ultimately, however, the brevity was a negative for me in that I never felt close enough to the characters to become fully invested in their fates.