May 28, 2017 on Readers’ Favorite.com | 5 stars
“Listen,” Gabriel Da Silva told his two children, Sarah and Jacob, “listen well because I am preparing you for life.” These arresting words open That Woman: Beating the Odds in Colonial New York by Wayne Clark, a historical novel that deals with kidnapping and a woman’s incredible courage. At a time their mother dies of illness, seventeen-year-old Sarah’s father is facing bankruptcy. The day that the merchant tries the final bid to save his family, Sarah and her brother, Jacob, are kidnapped and sold. The two kids are boarded onto a ship bound for New York where they will be sold to separate masters. Read on to discover how Sarah uses her intelligence, secrets learned while on the ship, and her will to be free to outwit the vilest and most cunning merchant in New York.
Wayne Clark could be the new Jeffrey Archer, another master of the plot. His That Woman: Beating the Odds in Colonial New York is a story that held me in ways I never could have imagined when I started reading. The characters are very compelling, each with a solid background and each born from a powerful conflict. The duel between Sarah and her new lord raises the stakes of the conflict in this novel and the reader becomes very keen to watch how it ends. Here is a story that dramatically captures the spirit of colonialism and slavery, with a masterful handling of the theme of freedom. Readers are taken on a roller coaster ride to colonial New York to witness a drama that will take their breath away. It’s utterly mesmerizing and tantalizing.
Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers’ Favorite
In 1748 on a stormy night, 17-year-old Sarah Da Silva and her 19-year-old brother, Jacob, children of Jewish merchant Gabriel, are kidnapped from a pier in Bordeaux, France, and sold into indentured servitude in New York City. Because they are educated and skilled, Sarah works as a bookkeeper for Zachariah Croman, a prominent merchant, and Jacob as an apprentice to Henry Fitler, a master engraver. Although they toil only blocks apart, the siblings do not see each other again for two years. Their reunion is facilitated by Noah, a free black man who befriends Sarah one night when he finds her crying on the street. For two years, Croman has been raping Sarah, and now she swears retribution. She obtains her freedom, but revenge begets revenge in a tale of life in pre-Revolutionary New York, with its immense array of cultures and languages, from the filthy crowded streets to the Broadway mansions. The docks vibrate with commerce and opportunity, and the harbor is packed with merchant ships waiting to unload their cargos. Historical tidbits about the city (Greenwich Village served as a “country retreat” for the upper class) enhance an action-packed plot that includes forgery (responsible for prodigious contributions to the supply of paper currency), thievery, immigrant fortitude, and the unbreakable bond of friendships that evolve into “family” in this new land. Clark’s (He and She, 2014) prose is vivid. Describing a Frenchwoman who will become Sarah’s friend and business partner, he writes: “Geneviève’s story came out in pieces, as if well intentioned short phrases had come to her tongue and no further, only to be forgotten about for moments on end … the engrossing story offers plenty of skulduggery to keep the plot moving.
Well-stocked with vibrant details about the merchant trade, this engaging Colonial tale delivers likable heroes, despicable villains, and a strong female protagonist.