LINCOLN — As an English teacher, one of Louella Bryant’s goals was to teach history through literature.
“I really truly believe that young people need to know the truth of what happened instead of prettying it up and making it seem like all the Europeans were good guys and English were good guys, and everybody else was the bad guy,” Bryant said. “It’s time for us to face the reality of what happened.”
She set out to portray the reality in “Beside the Long River,” a romantic thriller told from the point of view of feisty Puritan teenager Sarah Lyman, who begrudgingly left England with her family and settled in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Lymans eventually follow preacher Thomas Hooker to Connecticut, where the English clash with Pequot Indians.
“Literature is a really good way to reach people and show them reality through characters, especially characters who actually lived, as Sarah did,” Bryant said.
Bryant, of Lincoln, learned of the Lymans from her father-in-law, Stephen Parson, a descendant of the family, when helping him research his ancestry. The novel is dedicated to Parson.
Bryant said she set out to portray Sarah much like she was in real life.
“She didn’t like the Massachusetts Bay Colony because the laws were too strict, and there were public punishments, and she truly believed she should be able to dress and say whatever she wanted,” Bryant said.
In Connecticut, Sarah falls in love with a native boy, then finds out the English are determined to exterminate the Pequot tribe. She determines her only chance to have an influence is to dress as a boy. She becomes entangled in, as the author puts it, “bloodshed, bravery, and love.”
“For Puritans, you had to achieve a state of grace, so Sarah, throughout the whole book, kind of deals with this question of what is grace and what does it feel like and how do I find it,” Bryant said.
The author hopes to schedule readings at Southern Vermont bookstores. To purchase “Beside the Long River,” check with your local independent bookseller.
For more information about Bryant, visit louellabryant.com. She taught high school students for 25 years, then spent a dozen years teaching writing at Spalding University. She is now an independent editor as well as an author. “Beside the Long River” is her eighth book.