by 2 April 05, 2014As many of you know, we've finally started our very own book club! This week's post will be a basic introductory article, one in which I aim to provide a little background context on our first chosen text, and in which I will also be celebrating the winner of our book giveaway, Megan Dauksch! [caption id="attachment_6871" align="aligncenter" width="700"] you can get the book (in hard or digital form) here![/caption] The first book we'll be reading is Rachel Urquhart's "The Visionist." Urquhart's first novel gives readers a peek into the highly spiritual life of a mid-nineteenth-century Shaker colony. The book's main character, passionate teenager Polly, has escaped from an abusive home life to be taken in to a nearby Shaker community. The "Believers," as the Shakers are called, see Polly as a sign, a divine gift for their community; whether or not she actually possesses prophetic powers is yet to be seen (or read, in this case). The Shakers (or "Shaking Quakers," as they were originally called) were a religious sect that broke away from the Anglican Church of England in the 18th century. Their rules -- as we'll all see in the novel -- were simple but stringent: communal living, no contact with the World outside, consistent confession, and no sex. While all Believers were expected to remain celibate, both genders were given equal power and authority within the communities. You can see why this particular lifestyle not only failed to gain popularity, but also makes for a very interesting basis of mythology and literature in today's gender-focused world. [caption id="attachment_6870" align="aligncenter" width="700"] [image from americanantiquarian.org][/caption]As you begin reading the novel, consider Urquhart's reasoning behind this storyline: Why would she feel compelled to explore this particular sect of Christianity? And what conclusions can we draw about the failure to adapt in a modern world? These questions feel especially important given residential locale of most of our readers and writers: the American South. Next weekend we'll be sharing more thoughts and questions about "The Visionist." To join us in our reading, email us at email@example.com! Happy reading! For more background on the Shaker community, click here or here!
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