Roots in Colonial New England

Written by Francisca Goldsmith on Thursday, July 12, 2018


Our 12th week of AudiobookSYNC 2018 brings us a pair of novels with distinctly Puritan Colonial roots. Thanks to Listening Library for providing them.


Adriana Mather narrates her contemporary novel HOW TO HANG A WITCH, a tale combining history, mystery, and a ghost to boot. The tale is set in contemporary Salem, Massachusetts, where the 17th century witch trials occurred. Listeners are likely to recognize that place and event from such assigned reading as Arthur Miller’s playThe Crucible. This new tale pits a 21st-century descendant of Cotton Mather against the girls at her new school—and they’re the descendants of Cotton Mather’s victims, so listeners can guess things might turn ugly for Samantha Mather. Did you notice the author/narrator’s own family name? That's right: she shares a great-great-many-times-great-grandfather with the infamous Cotton (and with the fictional heroine in her novel).

Paired with this new novel is the classic THE SCARLET LETTER, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, read here by Donada Peters. Besides having a place on many teen summer reading lists, this story of Puritanism’s strictures, personal hypocrisy, and an individual’s strength in the face of community shunning continues to offer contemporary readers and listeners much to consider and discuss as reflected in today's culture. To amplify the imagery and interpretive possibilities of this story, you might want to go from the audiobook to one or another of the several graphic novels recently published containing versions of this classic. 

While the 17th century may seem like a long time ago, this week’s pair of audiobooks clarify how some of America’s current cultural roots can still be traced to the time and place of the Puritan colonies. Thank you, Listening Library, for a pair of good listens that guide us into thinking about how history and culture depend on each other, and thank you, AudiobookSYNC listeners, for sharing news about these free auiobooks with your friends.

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