I am probably behind others in reading this author, since many are familiar with her last book, "The Red Tent" (which I look forward to reading soon).
From the book flap:
"This is a story of hardship and resilience - and an extraordinary recreation of an untold chapter of early American life. With a keen ear for language and profound compassion for her characters, (Anita) Diamant has written her most moving and powerful novel."
This book was outstanding. Taking place in the early 1800's in the Cape Ann area of Massachusetts, the author introduces us to the various characters who inhabit this backwater area. They are as a lot remarkable only in the degraded lives they live. Individually they surmount obstacles that seem so foreign to me as to be unbelievable. And yet, it has been about five days since I finished this book and I still ponder the characters and their lives. The fact that this novel is based on a real and distinct area and various real people makes it more true to me. I had just visited this area and, while I was not steeped in its history, I felt the potential for the characters' eccentricities in what was then an isolated village. You can still visit what remains of this village, including the boulder-marked cellars of the houses of its inhabitants.
I definitely recommend that you read this book. It is not warm and fuzzy. It is dark and depressing at times, but there are inspiring deeds performed and heroes made also.