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Fiction Historical

The Purchase

by (author) Linda Spalding

McClelland & Stewart
Initial publish date
Aug 2017
Historical, Sagas, Literary
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2017
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Aug 2013
    List Price

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With a fresh new package, Linda Spalding's award-winning national bestseller, The Purchase, will be launched in time for her much anticipated new novel coming out this fall.

In 1798, a young Quaker father and widower is forced to leave his home in Pennsylvania with his fifteen-year-old new wife and his five children to establish a life elsewhere. When he soon finds himself the owner of a young slave boy, a chain of events is set in motion that will lead to two murders and the family's strange relationship with a runaway slave named Bett.

Lyrical yet as hard-edged as the realities of pioneer life, Spalding's writing is nothing short of stunning, her characters and their stories unforgettable. Atmospheric and gripping, powerful and morally complex, this spellbinding, cinematic novel of a family's hardships as they establish themselves in slave-ridden Virginia before the Civil War brings to mind Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain, Daniel Woodrell's Winter's Bone, and the work of Cormac McCarthy.

About the author

Linda Spalding is the author of the bestselling The Follow. She is editor of Brick magazine and lives in Toronto with her husband, Michael Ondaatje.

Linda Spalding's profile page


  • Short-listed, Trillium Book Award
  • Winner, Governor General's Literary Awards - Fiction
  • Short-listed, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize

Editorial Reviews

Praise for The Purchase
• "The Purchase is an epic novel in every way that matters - in scope, depth, and heart." -- Jury citation, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
• "Engrossing.... One of the finest historical novels in recent years." -- National Post
• "Imbued with the power of myth." -- Globe and Mail
• "A complex and engaging novel . . . Hardy-esque." -- Ottawa Citizen

User Reviews

Worthy of the GG

The story of a Quaker family who flees Pennsylvania for Virginia, and faces various moral dilemmas (re: slavery, war, etc.). Winner of the Governor's General Literary Award for Fiction, well deserved.

The Purchase

In Brandywine, Pennsylvania, in 1798, the Dickinson family is well respected in the Quaker community. Daniel earns a comfortable living in the family business, and along with his wife Rebecca, he raises his four children according to Quaker principles. When Rebecca is about to give birth to their fifth child, Daniel Dickinson hires a girl from a Methodist almshouse to help the family for a few weeks. Ruth Boyd cooks, cleans, and looks after the children while Rebecca rests in preparation for the birth. The birth does not go well; the baby is born sickly, and Rebecca dies. Rather than send her back to a squalid almshouse, Daniel asks Ruth to stay with his family and mind the children, a decision which shocks the Elders. In their view, a Methodist orphan is an unfit mother for a Quaker family, so the entire community responds by shunning the Dickinsons.

Daniel marries Ruth to be respectable, but he does not love her the way he did Rebecca. The new family leave Brandywine for the farmlands of Virginia, and soon after arriving, Daniel witnesses a slave auction. He is aghast at the cruel, dehumanizing attitudes, and feels a strong need to protect an especially vulnerable looking young boy from a life of misery. Daniel’s abolitionist principles are called into question when he realizes that the only way to spare the boy is to purchase him.

Equality and freedom are cherished Quaker values, but the Dickinsons soon learn that they are much harder to apply in their new Virginia home. Onesimus sleeps in a shelter outside of the main house, he works on the farm, and the children, though friendly, do not consider him a peer. He begins a relationship with a slave girl on a neighbouring farm, and when their son is born, the Dickinsons must decide how far they are willing to go to keep him safe.

The Purchase tells the story of a man who, for the very best of reasons, has based his life around decisions that compromise some aspect of his personal moral code. It depicts the complex realities of living by strong principles, and the difficulties that arise when some of those principles need to be sacrificed for the greater good.

This review appears on my blog at

Other titles by Linda Spalding