When I read Susan Fletcher’s first book, Eve Green I was carried away by her lyrical poetic style. I was captivated by it. I put her on my list of authors to watch for, so I was very excited when her second book, Oystercatchers came out. I was greatly disappointed, not so much in the writing style, but just bogged down with the depressing theme of the story. I really couldn’t wait for it to be over. It was with a but of trepidation but also hope that I picked up her latest, Corrag. Susan Fletcher, in my view has knocked one out of the park once again with her newest historical novel.
The story is narrated by Corrag, an accused witch who is in chains awaiting death by burning in the town square. Outside the door as the winter gives way to spring’s thaw, she hears preparation for her own execution. In reality, Corrag is a young girl who has never hurt a soul. She is traumatized by her own mother’s death at the hands of an angry village mob, also branded with the “witch” title. On the night they come for her Mom, she wakes Corrag and tells her to flee….”Go North and West…” where she felt her daughter would find safety in the Highlands of Scotland.
She rides her beloved mare, her only companion, for many miles until she finds an enchanting mountain valley called Glencoe. She settles quietly there where she builds a small shelter for herself in that rugged but beautiful place. Unbeknownst to her, it is also the home of the MacDonald clan, a wild bunch of highlanders who actually treat her better than anyone else has up until then. Due to her knowledge of herbs and healing arts, she is summoned one night to save the leader of the clan who has suffered a nasty head wound. If not for her skill, he would have died. She becomes part of their community and finds a welcome there she has never known before.
Susan Fletcher then weaves more history into this tale for during the time that Corrag is living on MacDonald land, the infamous slaughter of the MacDonalds of Glencoe happens and Corrag seems to be the only eyewitness. She gets caught up in the tragic events because she leads some of the MacDonalds to safety, which makes her an enemy of the government, which lands her in prison.
We see the world through the eyes of Corrag, as she tells her own story to her only visitor while she waits to die, a young “man of God” who has his own reasons for finding out what really happened the night of the massacre. Before we get to the night in question, Corrag tells us her own personal story. At first our young preacher is repulsed by this supposed witch, his mind has already prejudged her. But once he gets to know her, he becomes enchanted by her and the wonderful way she sees the world.
By the end, he is deeply disturbed by her impending death, which he now knows is unjust. He sees her as she really is, a scared young girl, so small most people mistake her for a child. Someone who is compassionate and full of life, though in chains. Someone who has transformed his life because she shows him a world of beauty such as he has never seen before.
I am immersed in this book and I don’t want it to end. I have enjoyed my time in Corrag’s little hut with her…..transfixed by the beauty of the wilds of highland Scotland. I found many lessons in this book. It made me think about how quick we are to prejudge and condemn with little or no evidence, even those in our own churches and communities. I thought of the times I have been prejudged and prejudged others.
I don’t know how this story will end. I could wish the the young Pastor would tell Corrag of Jesus and that she would know that the church and its members are about love and compassion instead of condemnation. I wish for an angel of the Lord to release her from her dank cell. I fear that I may not get the “Christian fiction” ending I hope for. No matter, I love this book regardless.