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Polly Kimball has had a difficult childhood An abusive, alcoholic father, a tired mother and a young brother who is her responsibility Just once she took her eyes off him and went to complete a chore and it nearly ended in tragedy With the very real fear that her father might kill them to take her mother s family farm, Polly sets fire to the cottage and she, her mother and her younger brother flee, leaving her father to burn.Polly s mother takes them to the City of Hope, a Shaker religious community There she leaves the two children where they will be safe and disappears Polly is then separated from her brother Ben by the religious beliefs those who adopt the religion must forsake all blood relation They are all sisters, they are all brothers But male female interaction is not permitted among the Shakers without an escort and Polly does not even get to speak to Ben She knows he must be upset and confused he is not like other boys He is different and he needs gentle handling She hopes that the Brothers know that.Polly has secrets to hide from this community, big secrets However a mysterious event soon after her arrival leads them to hail her as a Visionist the first of their community They believe she is a vessel sent to speak the words and wishes of Mother Ann and this subjects her to heavy scrutiny and pressure Polly knows that eventually they will discover her secrets and judge her despite the protection of Charity, a young Sister.Simon Pryor is a fire inspector hired to investigate the situation surrounding the fire on the Kimball farm and for him, it is an opportunity to free himself from tyranny and also, redemption He is unable to talk to Polly without her mother as appropriate escort and May Kimball has disappeared There are others who wish to find May first, to get their hands on what she has that could thwart efforts to get the Kimball farm Simon needs to find her first, for the sake of not only the whole Kimball family but also himself.This book is quite a hard one to review Some you sit down and the words flow easily, it s a problem of stopping them But for this book, I m finding it very difficult to articulate how I thought about it On one hand, the writing is very good Polly is a fabulous character, so very deserving of the reader s sympathy She has faced unspeakable things in her fifteen years, been subjected to truly horrible acts to go with her day to day existence of work, poverty and abuse She takes action but that doesn t mean it sits easy with her and her life doesn t get much easier after the fact She finds herself abandoned to the Shaker community, something she knows nothing about She has to basically ignore her brother, which causes her enormous emotional distress and the added pressure of the tag of being a Visionist, a vessel is also stressful because she eventually knows that it cannot last Before becoming a true Shaker, you must confess to an elder and adopt their ways Polly doesn t think anyone would understand her confession which turns out to be much complicated than even she first suspected and she also gets the feeling that an Elder Shaker doesn t expect her to stay in their community but they are clinging to Ben.The Shaker s might be about visions and vessels and speaking in tongues and forsaking all worldly connections and duties but they also demonstrate a ruthless practicality when it comes to Ben They believe that they need him because of what he will possess and to keep him within their fold, at least until he turns 18 but preferably permanently, is a must After all, they have to eat and have the ability to make their goods to sell Their worldly possessions as an individual are nothing but they are well fed and well clothed and they do not live in poverty And for that to occur, they have to make smart decisions and occasionally ruthless ones.However despite of this, there are times a lot of times when the story really lags It s very slow and the split narrative between Polly, Sister Charity and Simon Pryor doesn t always work It takes a very long time for everything to come together and because of this, the ending which is filled with the most action and information, feels rushed The pacing feels very uneven and I also feel like I could ve been given information about what happened to Polly at the end It was very important, what she tried to do, what Charity did to her in return and what happened after and it was glossed over and then pretty much skipped entirely as we went back to Simon Pryor, who I really didn t care about at all In fact he could ve been removed from the story and his place taken by Trask at the end and it wouldn t have made an ounce of difference to the story What I cared about were May, Polly and Ben getting what was theirs and hopefully being reunited to try and move on with their lives Simon was at times, merely a distraction from the story I wanted to read.And so I am confused about this one In parts it was really quite good and I found the Shaker movement interesting enough to google it and find out a bit information I found their self serving nature interesting as well as their pious adhering to a very strict lifestyle but overall the dancing and the chanting and the speaking in tongues were a bit distracting as well and I feel like I didn t really get a detailed portrayal of them from the book Most of my information came after I finished reading it. Shakers, the Shaking Quakers because of their ecstatic behavior during worship services , a lesser known branch off, though very intriguing as far as religious sects go Nearly cult like in its aspectsdenying family bonds, taking over all material possessions, seclusion from the world From the downright silly cutting food into squares instead of triangles, bowlcuts for men to WTF no inside pets to downright self exterminating no sex , this wasn t a situation build to last And in fact it didn t, it died out, according to Wikipedia there s only one surviving Shaker village left And yet there s also something to be said for the fact that Shakers gave leadership roles to women at the time when no one did some still struggle with that, recent study places US at 104 worldwide for the number of women in the government , 104, well under many third world countries even , when being a woman was a now unthinkable tribulation In fact so much so that joining Shakers was actually a viable option to a life of privation and spousal abuse and sex mustn t have been that difficult to give up when it was very likely to end in death in childbirth And so it is into Shaker s community that a much abused wife takes her two children, after fleeing her home and her violent sorry excuse of a husband Turns out that the land they fled actually has some worth, an investigator gets involved and so the plot is set into motion The narrative follows Polly, the woman s daughter, Sister Charity, the young Shaker who befriends her and Simon Pryor, the investigator To her credit, Urquhart manages to give her protagonists singular voices and personalities, so that the reader gets a well rounded perspective Polly, looking for peace and hope in the appropriately named City of Hope, Sister Charity looking for the purest embodiment of her faith, The Visionist Polly is taken for one upon arrival , Simon looking for truth, but also undergoing a personal redemptive journey This is a fairly straight forward story with the profoundly complex characters An exploration of faith, friendship and love Urquhart s language has a dreamlike quality, almost hypnotic, her sentences are a thing of beauty The novel is a slow read and was probably meant as such, but it is compelling and most auspicious for a debut novel, albeit one that took ten years to get out and so had plenty of time to bake to near perfection Enjoyable read, interesting, enlightening Works both as a drama and as a work of historical fiction Recommended. In 1842, in a Shaker community in Massachusetts, Polly and her brother Ben are brought there by their mother, who then leaves Polly and her family had suffered mightily at the hands of their abusive father I knew very little about this religion and the novel does a wonderful job describing their beliefs, men and woman live apart, no carnal knowledge allowed their clothing, their food and the jobs they do to keep the community running Sister Charity is the one assigned to show and teach Polly what she needs to know about this community Polly soon assumes an important part as she see and feels angels, she becomes a revered Visionist.Of course she has left behind a big secret and Pryor, a man is investigating a crime that she and her family are trying to escape So much of this novel was entertaining but I never felt that I really got to know the girls, did not feel close to them, although I did like both.Also the story never raised its tone, it basically stayed the same even when Pryor was closing in on the truth and Polly s baptism as a Visionist drew attention to the community than she wanted Interesting book and a good look at a little known religion. I ve finally finished Most people will know I ve struggled through this one I m not sure why the story itself was ok It was very descriptive which I do tend to like but it on this occasion I found it distracting from the story and also the issues such as sin, forgiveness, which weren t deeply explored Starting from a point of knowing the story before the investigator trying to uncover it was frustrating and I struggled to warn to any of the characters. This was not an easy read Though I got the gist of the story in the end I m left with a hazy impression of its conclusion The climax was leading towards a happy reunion of the Kimball family and a satisfying defeat of the greedy land grabbers in play I was waiting for the in your face moment when Sister Agnes realizes she went after the wrong sibling to secure her end a vindication of Polly in Charity s eyes and satisfaction for Simon who was unhappy with his forced walk on the unsavory side of justice I got none of these No Kimball happy reunion No satisfying defeat of the villains in the story No vindication for Polly or Simon I m not even sure if the rightful owner of the Kimball farm was ever revealed by Simon or Tsak, or the that May was ever informed that Benjamin s birth was documented by Peeles Instead, we are slapped with an ill fitted foreshadowing of an unexpected, creepy, and one sided romance Ugh The most interesting thing about the book was the setting and the promise of a great thriller that unfortunately for me, did not fulfill its charge 3 stars for the mere fact that it had me going for a moment In the 1990 s my husband, a real estate broker, took me to a location in rural Massachusetts that had been a Shaker community It was on a beautiful landscape of rolling hills and stream with a vast expanse of sky The property was on the market for such a reasonable price I was shocked The buildings left were stark and eerie in their vastness and simplicity There was a barn and a main building A lone sheep made its way across a narrow stream We went into the main building made of weathered blue wood It was huge and had an echoing emptiness to it Small windowsswept, unpolished wooden floors and plain wallsa narrow staircase The place felt haunted It was about three stories tall, but it seemed to reach to the sky I had a strange feeling about the whole place, as if people were watching us Beautiful as the entire package seemed, it was ghostly.Rachel Urquhart has written a book that has made the Shakers come alive I ve always had a fascination with them and their seemingly ethereal religious lives They have seemed ghostly, as well, in their unattainable ways In a lifestyle not quite Quaker and perhaps far from Amish, the Shakers seemed even set apart to me than other splinter religions In this novel I ve had a glimpse of what their lives might have been like and it is magical in Urquhart s hands.The storyline is rich and interesting primarily featuring Polly, a girl who has escaped an abusive father by murdering him only to find shelter with the Shakers who believe she is a visionist, one especially selected to have spiritual insights and messages We also follow another character s crime procedural as he ferrets out Polly s secret And, finally, we are brought into the mind of the Shaker sister who takes Polly into her heart and takes us into the intimacy of the community The three narrations carry the novel adding depth to the story.Ms Urquhart is an author with strong talents It s hard to believe this is a debut novel Her literary voice is mature, her vision exotic and her story will touch your heart The world of the Shakers is unveiled and the lives of her characters evolve like a well spring.This is one of those books you have to read this year I can t say enough about it 5 stars Deborah TheBookishDame Rachel Urquhart s beautifully written debut novel is set in 1842 in a Massachusetts Shaker community called the City of Hope The story is told through the eyes of its three main characters Polly is a fifteen year old girl who has fled a life of abuse and degradation She finds refuge, acceptance, and friendship in the Shaker community Sister Charity is a devoted Shaker who has lived in the City of Hope since she was left there as a baby Her unfailing faith, and her friendship with Polly are tested when a hidden secret comes to light Simon Pryor is an arson investigator who must try to interview Polly to determine her involvement in a crime Simon s young life holds many secrets of its own.Their lives become intertwined in an unforgettable story of fanatical faith, greed, mystery, resilience, rebirth, and hope Ms Urquhart s extensive research into the Shaker culture adds immensely to this story. Reminds me what a joy it is to read a GOOD first novel Here s my review for NPR Hahaha This is another Aw, shit production I love Hachette.So this wasn t the story for me.I think all the things I was supposed to get from it, I missed I got a lot of other things, instead.The story is ok, though I never bought into it which is probably why I didn t enjoy it as much as others have I think I was expecting The Scarlet Letter and less melodrama.For me, this was tale made of throwing the following into a blender and then hitting the FRAPPE button Polly who flees the farm with her mother and brother to live amongst PLUSCharity whose story looks like this PLUSSimon though not as smart, only as arrogant.His story looks like this PLUS PLUSBuffonish, bullying boor of a bad guy who is described as dressing foppishly than one would expect for the 1840 s He probably should have been described as a dandy, right Well, whatever And the disapproving Shaker eldress Mix those all together and that s what the story looked like to me. `FREE BOOK ↸ The Visionist ☔ An Enthralling Debut Novel About A Teenage Girl Who Finds Refuge But Perhaps Not In An S Shaker CommunityIn This Exquisite, Transporting Debut, Year Old Polly Kimball Sets Fire To The Family Farm, Killing Her Abusive Father She And Her Young Brother Find Shelter In A Massachusetts Shaker Community Called The City Of Hope It Is The Era Of Manifestations, When Young Girls In Shaker Enclaves All Across The Northeast Are Experiencing Extraordinary Mystical Visions, Earning Them The Honorific Of Visionist And Bringing Renown To Their Settlements The City Of Hope Has Not Yet Been Blessed With A Visionist, But That Changes When Polly Arrives And Is Unexpectedly Exalted As She Struggles To Keep Her Dark Secrets Concealed In The Face Of Increasing Scrutiny, Polly Finds Herself In A Life Changing Friendship With A Young Shaker Sister Named Charity, A Girl Who Will Stake Everything Including Her Faith On Polly S Honesty And Purity