Set in the 1680s and ‘90s on the New England frontier, Blood Sisters is the story of two real and extraordinary women, Hannah Duston and her sister Elizabeth Emerson. Against a background of ongoing Indian attacks, witch trials, the struggling frontier, severe families, and hellfire Puritan preachers, the sisters grew up to be courageous, independent, sensual, and rebellious. Each in her time faced very different critical and terrifying situations. In self-defense and for good or ill, they each planned and carried out very dark deeds to save their lives.
Hannah, the elder sister, was captured by the Pennacooks and marched some 100 miles into the wilderness while being harassed, starved and abused. Her violent rebellion differed dramatically from other captivity narratives as Hannah differed from their pious, long-suffering heroines. Hannah was embraced as a model of courage and resourcefulness from New England to Virginia. Her name became a rallying cry for the colonists, who were being attacked, plundered, murdered, and kidnapped.
Hannah’s younger sister Elizabeth led a shockingly dissolute and rebellious life. Ultimately, she was charged with murder and sent to Boston where she languished in jail awaiting sentencing along with the accused witches.
Cotton Mather, a famous Puritan minister, told stories in long sermons about each of the sisters and played a pivotal role in each woman’s career.
Some of these events are part of the historical record—legal records, sermons, genealogies, and letters. The rest of the novel is my own creation. Some records of actual interrogations that seem especially vivid and interesting are included almost verbatim. But I have created the relationship between the two sisters, invented details, shifted events around, and created or fleshed out the minor characters.