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The Visionist

3.51 of 5 stars 3.51  ·  rating details  ·  1,228 ratings  ·  261 reviews
An enthralling debut novel about a teenage girl who finds refuge--but perhaps not--in an 1840s Shaker community.

In this exquisite, transporting debut, 15-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 yo
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published January 14th 2014 by Little, Brown and Company (first published June 20th 2013)
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this is a lovely and haunting novel that takes place in a shaker community in massachusetts in 1842. polly is a fifteen-year-old girl who has endured years of poverty and abuse at the hands of her father silas who has managed to drive their farm into the ground. her younger brother ben was left developmentally damaged after silas tried to drown him when ben was just a baby, and their mother is resigned to her lot, having been impregnated and tricked into marriage when she was only thirteen, afte ...more
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 more 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:
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who flees the far
Diane S ❄
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
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
Jane Ciabattari
Reminds me what a joy it is to read a GOOD first novel! Here's my review for NPR:
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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 weathere ...more
This debut novel is so well written, and I was totally captivated with the characters and the story. Set in 1842, the story revolves around a young teenage girl and her family after she and her much younger brother are taken to a Shaker community for refuge and safety. The family is in crisis, and Polly, the young girl, is especially troubled, torn between the goodness she finds in many ways in this Shaker village, the repression she also feels in this place, and anxiety over her mother and the ...more
Bree T
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 co
This book was chosen by one of my book clubs. Told in alternating chapters by three main characters the story unravels but yet there is an element of mystery that is suspended. Learning about the Shaker community was the part of this book I enjoyed the most as I found it so informative but the general pace of the story was quite slow. I would like to see how this author develops though and would read other books she releases.
This novel is set in a unique setting. Charity, an adolescent girl, has spent her entire life in a New England Shaker community. With little knowledge of the world beyond that utopian compound, she is developing into the ideal Shaker. Polly arrives at that Shaker community with her baby brother, fleeing a life time of brutal abuse and molestation at the hands of her alcoholic father, abuse that is escalating into the real threat of murder. Being Charity’s first peer, they become close friends an ...more
This book has some clear villains. And clear innocents. And reluctant heroes. Each with their own motivation and perspective. At its heart, this is actually a story of love and intrigue woven into a Shaker community in Massachusetts. It takes a few chapters to get the characters in motion, but by the end the story has plenty of momentum. And the ending is a satisfying one. A strong sense of place and believable characters. It doesn't take much more than that to spin a good yarn.
The Visionist is set in the City of Hope, a Shaker community in Massachusetts in 1842. Fifteen-year old Polly and her brother are hidden in the City of Hope by their mother after a fire destroyed their farm and killed their father. While her brother Benjamin accepts their new situation, Polly struggles to adjust to the different way of life, inio part because of the secrets she carries with her. While being viewed with suspicion at first, she is soon hailed as a "visionist", which brings even mo ...more
Actually, I'd like to give this book 3.5 stars...or maybe even 3.75. More about why I didn't, later. I was aware of the Shakers, but not much beyond the fact that they made great furniture, lived sparsely and believed that sex was filthy...therefore, men and women were never together...therefore, there are no more Shakers. This book filled in a lot of gaps in my knowledge.

Reading this book left me feeling a little like I'd been peeking in someone's windows - the inner workings of The City of Ho
I guess I was expecting a slightly different story than what I ended up with. This book is probably most interesting and notable for its setting in a Shaker settlement, but I think I was expecting more of a mystery than what was presented. Also, the Polly as Visionist story actually didn't seem as developed as it should have been. However, I liked the alternating viewpoints, though I felt like Elder Sister Agnes' character was not terribly consistent. I feel a bit ambivalent about the end, as we ...more
Juli Rahel
I requested this book because of its fascinating synopsis. On the one hand it was giving me a bit of a The Scarlet Letter vibe, while also feeling slightly fantastical. In the end, this book was nothing I expected and yet gave me everything I could've asked of it.

The plot is one that jumps between different narrators. We switch between the same three characters and through that the reader gets different insights into the story, which was a great choice on the part of Urquhart because when an int
I expected to be put off by Urquhat’s portrayal of the Shakers during the Era of Manifestations, but in general she did a good job with the scenes set in a fictional Shaker village. The the main plot, however, about characters scheming to grab land, was awkward, repetitive,and uninteresting.

Urquhat's portrait of the Shaker Eldress was complex and insightful: not only did she see into the souls of her charges, but she was a pragmatist who believed it was her religious duty to increase the communi
This book receives a 3.5 rating from me. I received this book as a first reads give-a-way. As a historian, I was very interested in the way in which a fictional account would portray the Shakers. Urquhart's presents the reader with an intriguing story, though it is quite slow to start. Admittedly, there were some parts of the story that are difficult to follow. I also feel that the reader would have benefited from an author's note or afterword that explained a bit more about the Shaker culture a ...more
In this meticulous debut novel, Polly Kimball sets fire to her home, killing her father, in order to escape his abuse. She finds shelter in a Shaker community not yet blessed with a Visionist during the Era of Manifestations, as extraordinary visions were sweeping across Shaker communities in the Northeast. Shortly after arriving in the City of Hope, Polly shocks her new refuge by demonstrating that she, in actuality, is a Visionist.

But Polly harbors secrets and well as mysticism, and the two ad
I received this book for free as a Goodreads giveaway! I didn't know anything about Shakers before reading this novel. Except maybe the furniture. So I was a bit apprehensive about it, would it be contemporary enough to keep my interest? Absolutely. The story of young Polly who is given away to a Shaker community after a family tragedy could easily be a modern tale. I loved how the 3 main characters each took alternating chapters to tell their side of the story. The author really knew the religi ...more
I think the description of a Shaker community was really interesting in a novel. However, I didn't like the main line that Polly was abused by her father. I HATE such things, they are too easy to come up with. Yeah, babe, we want a bestselling novel, why not put in an abusive father, a man raping a boy?
So I can't help thinking that had RU wanted to write an awesome story, she could have twisted things in a way that we have a real trauma without this kind of abuse, and still there is a mystery be
Alisha Tarran
After enduring her father's cruelty for years, Polly, her brother Ben and her mother decide to flee in the night after it all becomes too much, but Polly accidentally sets the house on fire, killing her father. Left with the Shakers by their mother, Polly and her brother are told to forget all familial ties, her brother soon becomes brainwashed to the groups ways and Polly, while she does make a friend, can't seem to fit in. Meanwhile, a fire investigator is searching for Polly and her mother to ...more
Just finished this book, and I am so glad I read it. I was totally engrossed in the characters, the reasons they did what they did, and, in general, the excellent writing and solid story line. Below is one of the many quotes I marked; it relates to the "red book"--a book from "the World" outside of the Shaker village. The main character, Polly, recently arrived from the World and shared the book with her roommate who had lived in the Shaker world all of her life:

"Sister Polly proved to me that
Young Polly has been brought up into a poor, bleak life, with an overly abusive father, to her mother AND herself. She has a young brother who her father at one time tries to drown. She takes it upon herself to escape with her mother & brother. Her mother quietly accepts this with no questions. Before they leave, Polly accidentally knocks over a lantern & catches the farm on fire while her father is in a drunken stupor. They leave & their mother takes them to be sheltered at a Shaker ...more
MyACPL Athens County Public Libraries
from James:

The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart is a gut-wrenching tale about incest and violence and how a young girl and her brother came to live in a Shaker community in Massachusetts. The story is set at the height of the Shaker movement, so it’s not a dry look back, but rather a story told in its time. It’s a well-researched story that lifts a corner on a private world.
There are 3 narrators in the book, each revealing their own side of the story. Sister Charity is a devout Shaker who was raised
Hennessey Library
Amish/Mennonite romances are hot with library inspirational romance readers, and I purchased The Visionist by Rachel Urquhart thinking it would add a little variety to their selections. Variety? Well...

I'm not sure where it belongs. It is inspirational, but not in the conventional way. It does have a boy/girl component, but very slightly and certainly not the main story. It is a story about faith and how faith makes the believer see the unseen. The question it leaves is, does the unseen exist
In this story, a mother and her daughter and son flee their home. The mother brings her children to The City of Hope, a local Shaker community. The community members see her daughter as a “Visionist”, someone in direct contact with higher beings.

Meanwhile, an investigator is looking into the fire that burned down their house. Was it an accident? In the past, his official reports have always just stated what a local land owner, his childhood friend, wanted it to state. But Simon Pryor is ready to
Set in a Massachusetts rural community in the 1840s, this is historical fiction at its best. It’s an entertaining and compelling story, with realistic characters set against a well-researched and authentic background. Polly Kimball’s father is abusive and cruel. Unable to put up with the bad treatment any longer she persuades her mother to escape with her and her little brother, and they make their way to a Shaker community which takes in the two children, whilst May Kimball leaves to fend for h ...more
The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing, known as the Shakers, is a religious sect founded in 18th century England, a branch off of mainstream Protestantism.They were known as "Shaking Quakers" because of their ecstatic nature of their worship service.
The Kimball family lives on a small farm in rural Massachusetts. After a horrible fire, May (the mother) along with children Polly and Ben, find refuge in a nearby Shaker community called The City of Hope. Simon Pryor is the fi
This novel deals a girl, Polly, who sets fire to her family farmhouse, killing the abusive father who has been raping her repeatedly. She and her brother who, due to tragedy are indentured to a Shaker community in the 1840's by their mother who disappears to "do some things." Before the mother leaves she warns Polly never to tell anyone about what really happened at the farm.

The first night during meeting, she has an emotional episode, which ends with her fainting. She is dubbed a visionist by t
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Rachel Urquhart is a former writer and editor at Spy, Vogue, and Allure magazines. Her nonfiction has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, Tin House, Elle, GQ, Harper's Bazaar, Food & Wine, Travel & Leisure, and Vanity Fair. She received her MFA in Fiction from Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two sons.
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“The cruelty and brutishness of men is, on occasion, more than I can bear to witness.” 0 likes
“Indeed, I am dizzy with happiness to be standing near to one who accepts me so completely.” 0 likes
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