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"this is my book and i am writing it by my own hand."

Mary and her three sisters rise every day to backbreaking farmwork that threatens to suppress their own awakening desires, whether it's Violet's pull toward womanhood or Beatrice's affinity for the Scriptures. But it's their father, whose anger is unleashed at the slightest provocation, who stands to deliver the most harm. Only Mary, fierce of tongue and a spitfire since birth, dares to stand up to him. When he sends her to work for the local vicar and his invalid wife in their house on the hill, he deals her the only blow she may not survive.

Within walking distance of her family farm, the vicarage is a world away–a curious, unsettling place unlike any she has ever known. Teeming with the sexuality of the vicar's young son and the manipulations of another servant, it is also a place of books and learning–a source of endless joy. Yet as young Mary soon discovers, such precious knowledge comes at a devastating price, as is gradually made clear once she begins the task of telling her own story.

Reminiscent of Alias Grace in the exploration of the power dynamics between servants and those they serve and of Celie's struggles in The Color Purple, this quietly devastating tour de force reminds us that knowledge can destroy even as it empowers.

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