Son of My Sorrow

by Judith Eckerson



Book Details

Language :
Publication Date : 7/18/2000

Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 5.5x8.5
Page Count : 160
ISBN : 9780738822884

About the Book

Son of My Sorrow by Judith Eckerson, is a historical novel with feminist overtones, about Dutch New York in the early 1700's. The major character is a young woman who was engaged to the grandson of Peter Stuyvesant. These two people, and large numbers of their relatives, are actual historical persons. Benjamin Franklin also appears in the book briefly, on his trip from Boston to Philadelphia. There are numbers of other characters, tradesmen, Indians, and slaves, who are fictional. Rachel became pregnant before her wedding, and then her fiance was drowned. When her child was born, the Stuyvesants refused to acknowledge him. Rachel named the child Benoni, Hebrew for 'son of my sorrow.' After the child died of a fever at the age of two, she fled from her grief and her social isolation toward the west, where she and Petrus had planned to make a farm in the wilderness. She spent several years living alone, and later with an Indian in the New Jersey and New York wilderness digging gemstones for a living. Eventually, when her Indian companion wanted to marry her, she was unable to make a total commitment to the Mohawk culture, and chose to return to her family. Back in New York, she married a respectable farmer, Frans DeVries, and had many more children. But she was tortured by her mother-in-law for her immoral past, and lived more fully in her memories and diaries than in her everyday life. All her life, she interpreted herself through her journal writing, religious speculation, and digging into the earth for hidden treasures. Occasionally, her words and memories broke out into action, as when she dug up the graves of her baby twin sisters and reburied them in a single coffin, as her mother had wished thirty years before.

The book is written in the form of diary entries. The plot is a quest for meaning, in a culture circumscribed by religion, housewifery, farming. In an era when many men couldn't read, and paper was a precious commodity, even the logistics are part of the story. Rachel was taught to read because her grandmother had been victimized by a lawyer, when she could not read mortgage papers.

Rachel was a real historical person, but there is not much known about her. She was christened in the Dutch Church of New York. Her son Benoni was christened there. She was married, and her children thereafter were christened. There is no historical record of her existence after the birth of her last recorded child in 1732. Benoni Eckerson does not appear in any historical records after his christening, and it is reasonable to conclude that he died as a child, but it is not certain. It is possible that a child so sadly named might have changed his name later. Descendants of this family now live all over the world.

About the Author

Judith Eckerson is a writer and religious leader, an expert in textiles, a poet, and feminist who values the woman’s perspective on history. She taught philosophy in high school and college. She is Consulting Leader at the Northern Virginia Ethical Society, and on the staff of the American Ethical Union.