On the bookshelf: The Hanged Woman’s Daughter

The Hanged Woman’s Daughter by Nellie P. Strowbridge is published by Flanker Press and available at the Butterfly Book Boutique in Port aux Basques.

In this sequel to Catherine Snow, the last woman hanged in Newfoundland, we follow the pain, sorrow, and eventual fulfilling of her journey’s dream by Bridget Snow, the eldest daughter of Catherine and John Snow. I must admit before going any further that I was happily surprised the further into the book I advanced. What I first suspected to become nothing more than a novel of a young woman’s renewal through romance became so much more.

Following the conviction and hanging of her mother, and the scattering of the entire family by civil and religious authorities, Bridget is left alone in the family home, scorned by all her former acquaintances and friends. Deciding to leave her past behind, she takes her dead father’s boat in the dead of night and rows away to nowhere, leaving the waves to carry her as she sleeps. She is rescued by a handsome fisherman who brings her to Pirates’s Cove. To leave the last vestige of her past behind, she changes her name to Shillelagh Morgan.

Of course, romance eventually does bloom, but not before she has become a person of mystery, refusing to reveal anything of her past. This leads to rumours, innuendos, petty jealousies, and outright accusations. Some would have her fleeing from the law, or an abusive husband. Others even gossip that she may have killed someone.

Allow me to digress a little here to point out that this is a human trait that endures to this day. A friend newly arrived in Newfoundland and wishing to get married to a local lass was suspected of already being married, and had to obtain proof from the Ontario government that he was indeed single before the Minister would agree to perform the ceremony. But back to Bridget’s tale.

In somewhat of a twist, the author introduces a mysterious “mummer” who appears not only in Bridget’s entourage, but at various times in all the other children’s lives as well.

Married to Terrance, her rescuer, under the name of Shillelagh, Bridget receives a mysterious unsigned letter inviting her to a meeting in St John’s on the date of the anniversary of her mother’s hanging. This eventually causes her to reveal her true identity and troubled past to her husband. At the appointed time, we find that all the remaining surviving children have received a similar invitation and are now assembling for the first time since they were scattered. I’ll not spoil the identity of the mummer or their motives for you.

Readers of the first novel of this series, Catherine Snow, will recall a lad named Daniel Kennedy, who was believed to have been thrown overboard. However, he was not, but was severely beaten by the ship’s master and remained scarred for life.

Gerald Roy is a former Federal Human Rights mediator and educator. Hailing originally from Sherbrooke, Québec, he has retired to Port aux Basques to be near his family. His voracious book reading appetite trends towards westerns, spy novels, thrillers and mysteries.

As I indicated at the beginning, I was happily surprised with how much I enjoyed this book. Although I still feel that some of the characters’ interactions, visitations and conversations are no more than line fillers, it is still a very well crafted story, thoroughly researched, and very well written so as to maintain the reader’s interest.

I give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars.

NOTE: A brief word to my readers. You may find that in these evaluations, I have a tendency to do a little pontificating. I offer no apology for it. After all, is this not the way to improve the future, to correct mistakes of the past to ensure a better outcome?

Leave a Reply