In the Hudson River Valley of 1769, a woman is struggling. It is a difficult life on the small farm outside the village, full of hard work, and she is not getting the help she needs from her husband. He prefers to hang out in the village tavern or go hunting with his dog. He is a man of great charm, but he likes to think and daydream and lie in the fields drinking instead of doing his work. His wife has had to learn to chop wood, and the hay spoils in the fields. Her husband has a knack of turning every request for help into an argument, ending with him stomping out with his gun. Soon, she has the reputation of a scold.
One day he does not come back, leaving her alone with her two children. After waiting a few days, she rallies the men of the village to look for him, but he is nowhere to be found. Now she has a harder life, trying to rally her children to help her so they can continue to care for the animals, keep the house warm, and put food on the table. The villagers, at first helpful, turn against her, though, and soon rumors are floating about. She drove her husband away, or worse.
We also follow this story from the point of view of Judith, her daughter. She misses her father but is loyally supportive of her mother. Her brother resents the added work, and she would rather read, so neither of them is as helpful as their mother could wish. As the nation moves toward revolution, especially after her brother joins the army, Judith wants only freedom from the farm and her mother’s life.
Seven Locks provides us an unusual look at the remnants of the life of the early Dutch settlers and the ways they were forced to change with the emergence of the new nation. It is a touching portrayal of the difficulty of one family’s life and of one woman’s spirit. Sparely but vividly told, it is a tale to make you thoughtful.