The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America
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The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America

3.59 of 5 stars 3.59  ·  rating details  ·  645 ratings  ·  77 reviews
Nominated for the National Book Award, this book is set in colonial Massachusetts where, in 1704, a French and Indian war party descended on the village of Deerfield, abducting a Puritan minister and his children. Although John Williams was eventually released, his daughter horrified the family by staying with her captors and marrying a Mohawk husband.


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Paperback, 316 pages
Published March 28th 1995 by Vintage (first published January 1st 1994)
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Karen
As a historical novel, it is a fantastic book and a wonderful read. Unfortunately, it wasn’t billed as such, and as an historical text, there are some significant issues here. Most critically, Demos in places confuses the Mohawks involvement with what were actually Abenaki, and he also seems to have ignored the historiography that was emerging in the Native American field at that time (especially the New Indian History), that should have greatly impacted his interpretation (Richard White’s The M...more
Josie
I am not a history major, clearly. I only made it 50 pages into this book and couldn't imagine slogging my way through the rest. I love the "story" here, but Demos was clearly more focused on primary sources and fact...after fact...after fact... Minute details distracted from what could have been a fascinating telling of this incident. I don't need four pages of historical text (in ye olde americaine englysh no less) of what possessions each townsperson lost in the massacre, followed by a single...more
Jana
I have much to learn! I thought Cotton Mather was a character in The Crucible (close, but no). And John Williams is a composer (yes, but in this case we're dealing with the Puritan Minister who became famous for the account of his experiences called THE REDEEMED CAPTIVE).

This is a very well written, very detailed account of a massacre and capture of New England colonists by the French & Indians of "New France". Not really a spoiler, due to the name of the book, but most of the focus ends up...more
Bruce
Dr. Demos sets the story of white captives in context. The taking of John Williams and his family, among others during a raid on Deerfield, Mass. by Indians allied to the French is the beginning of the 'story.' Eunice Williams, his daughter, was not returned to New England when others in the group were traded back for Frenchmen held captive in New England or ransomed. Eunice was adopted by an Indian family when she was 'captured.' Later she married an Indian and became completely acculturated to...more
John
One of the most compelling and readable works of history I encountered all year. And I read a lot of history. This is a scholarly work, but it was written with kind of a fiction tone, and Demos uses a lot of speculation to get inside people's heads and really ponder their experiences. This does what all great works of history are supposed to do, it analyzes a time that seems somewhat incomprehensible to people today. Imagine, if you will (especially those of you who live in small New England tow...more
Mscout
John Demos is an historian of another age. He was trained during a time when historians were struggling to be recognized as more than mere stenographers of past events. As a result, narrative history was shoved aside in favor of a more (if not almost purely) analytical approach that stressed interpretation of the stories rather than the telling of them. This was unfortunate as he “had been drawn to history by the stories.” As the subtitle to this work suggests, however, he has come back to that...more
Mary Lou
Social history suggested by my son, something he’d read for a course - liked the symmetry of the many beginnings/many endings structure - also liked the play on words in the title, ‘unredeemed’ meaning un-ransomed, unrepentant, and un’saved’ in terms of religious choice/belief. In 1704 Eunice Williams was about seven years old, part of a prominent Puritan clerical family living in Deerfield, Mass. when the community was attacked by French and Indians who killed many of the inhabitants and carri...more
Megan
I really enjoyed this book. It tells the story of a New England family who was captured by Native Americans in the Deerfield Raid, which took place approximately in 1704. The daughter, Eunice, never did return to her family, she had multiple opportunities, but she chose to remain with the Native Americans. This book shows the attitudes the colonists had towards the Indians, the Indian captives, Catholics, the French, the Indian captives, etc, that chose to stay, etc.

This book I think would be i...more
Hafsa
Dec 24, 2010 Hafsa rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: misc
Facinating use of the imagination in retelling history. As a narrator of history and a scholar who is faced with critical gaps in the historical record as pertains to his subject, Demos deploys his own imagination when discussing how the various members in the family felt at different points in the narrative by critically examining their letters, the historical context around that time period, and the silences in their writings. The book is scholarly, but also fictional, which is what makes is c...more
Matt
The first 2/3 of this non-fiction tale is quite interesting: in colonial New England, an English/protestant minister and his family are taken captive to Canada by Mohawk Indians who happen to be Catholic by way of French missionaries. The family is divided, but over time most of them are returned to New England in prisoner exchanges, except for the youngest daughter. She eventually assimilates and converts to Catholicism as her relatives fight for years after to redeem her from a "captivity" tha...more
Londonmabel Mabel
Most reviews say this book is either super interesting, or way too detailed. It's both. Demos takes a story that could be covered a long magazine article and stretches it out into a book. But if you're interested in studying either New England or Kahnawake in the 17 and 18th centuries, then Demos' too-much-detail is great.

He quotes extensively from the sources, and then repeats in his own words what was just said, and then imagines and extrapolates on the material. The repeating and extrapolatin...more
Kathy
I enjoyed this heavily-researched book about a 7-year-old girl and her family who were captured by Indians in 1704 from their home in Deerfield, MA. Everyone in the family but young Eunice either died or was eventually returned to their home but she chose to stay with the tribe, marry an Indian man and live there for the rest of her life. It's astonishing how the author put together an entire book from the meager facts available about Eunice; much of the material revolved around the conflicts be...more
Leann
Jul 10, 2008 Leann rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in history
Shelves: history
You gotta hand it to the author -- he did his research. This book contains information from numerous primary sources, and that is where the strengths of this book lie. The author delves off into trying to fill in the blanks left us by the primary sources, but that's not what he's good at. I found some of his "imaginings" of what happened to be quite different from what I imagined given the evidence he had presented. But overall, it was a fascinating look at life in the late 1600s to early 1700s,...more
Nisha
One of my favorite historical book. I read it for two different classes and enjoyed it during both times. It's nice to read because while it give factual information, with some layers of speculation, it still runs the course of the story of the 'Unredeeemed captive', "Eunice".

It's really fascinating to read the meager facts about the life of this woman and the well documented attempts of her family to bring her back.

Lauren Hopkins
Interesting account of the Williams family of Deerfield, who were captured during the massacre in 1704 and spent much of their lives trying to reunite. The book is at its core about the history of captives being forced to live among "savages" and how their return to "civilization" could "redeem" them. The Williams family is just one of many New England families dealing with a problem like this, but their case is unique - and the perfect case for this book - because most of the family was release...more
Caroline
Impeccable scholarship, vital insights into culture conflicts of the past, and present.

This wonderful book is the best kind of popular history: uncompromising in the standards of its scholarship, yet accessible and fascinating to a broad, non-academic audience of readers interested in the nature of cultural identity, and clashing/co-existing societies. It tells the story of one family forcibly ruptured into two worlds, when an Indian raid carries off family members, including a seven-year-old d...more
Amy
Sep 09, 2012 Amy rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: History buffs, Puritan studies, Native American white captives, Deerfield
I had originally got this under the assumption it was fiction, but having an interest in First Nations/Native American and captive histories, I read through it. I did enjoy this book, and were is an option I would have actually given it more of a 3.5.

This review contains historical information involved in the book, I don't consider it a 'spoiler' as such.

This book centres around the Williams family and their initial capture and later redemption through ransom from the Mohawk tribe, following the...more
Mark Schlatter
Interesting at times; frustrating at others.

A friend recommended this book after I raved about Empire of the Summer Moon. It has the same basic focus --- the story of a colonial woman captured by Native Americans who, as she grows up, comes to identify with and thrive in her new life. Each book uses that story as a lens through which to view both Native American and colonial culture.

I prefer Empire of the Summer Moon. Some of that (perhaps much of that) is due to the book's Texas setting. Moreov...more
Amy
This is the story of Eunice Williams, and her family, who on one fateful night in the 1700s was split apart in an Indian raid on the Deerfield colony. Eunice Williams was captured at the age of 4, and remained with the tribe for the duration of her life. This is the story of her family's attempt to find her and reclaim her.

I ranked this only two stars because for the first half, the author strings together quotes from written letters to make long sentences, retaining the awful grammar and missp...more
Lisa Lap
Boy did the author research his material for this book: the notes are definitely extensive and varied. The storytelling however, comes across as a bit dry and hard to read at times as the narrative is choppy and often zig-zag from different points of view. I recognize that this book shouldn't be viewed as historical fiction, but rather an account of actual history and the drastic ways that life changed for the captured Puritans during the wars of the late 1770's and I can appreciate that as a hi...more
Amy
A nonfiction account set in colonial Massachusetts where, in 1704, a French and Indian war party descended on the village of Deerfield, abducting a Puritan minister and his children. Although John Williams was eventually released after several years in captivity in Canada, his daughter Eunice--who was 7 at the time of her capture--horrified the family by staying with her captors and eventually marrying a Mohawk husband. As a direct descendant of the Williams family (through Stephen Williams, Eun...more
Dixie Diamond
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dee
John Demos writes a captivating narrative on the historical happenings in New England in the early 1700's. The kidnapping of a young girl and the story of trying to find her in the villages and surrounding forests, across the Canadian border and finally, finding her with the Indians after years of searching. It tells of the animosity between the French and the English, between the Catholics and the Protestants, between the whites and the Indians. It shows the humanity and lack of it in all the d...more
Colleen
i enjoyed it, but no as much as Indian Captive. There was just too little material to really get a sense of what it was like for the captive or her family. As a general history of the time and the relations between native americans and puritans-it was informative-but as a soi called micro-hostory I felt it was light
Paul
This is the tale of Eunice Williams, taken from her home in Deerfield, Massachusetts, in the Deerfield Massacre of February 29, 1704. She was eight years old. She died in 1785. She had married a Mohawk man and had by him two children. She lost her use of English, converted to Catholicism, and lived in the Indian fashion until the day of her death.

It is also the tale of the meeting of three cultures: the Catholic French in Canada, the Puritan English in New England, and the Native Americans (most...more
Mary Good
I liked it because it was well written, an interesting subject. It takes place near where I live. the author did not try to guess what people were thinking and feeling who were from a completely different culture. He did put forward a theory or two
Monica
This is probably my second favorite book of all time. Demos is an excellent historian, and in this book, he turned out narrative prose to rival the best fiction novels. Having at one time been a historian myself, I imagine that this book was a big relief to him as he gave into the temptation that we all have - to imagine what happened to our subjects even when we don't have any records or evidence to support it.

Demos clearly distinguishes between the non-fiction text and the imagined text by usi...more
Helen Major
This is a vitally important subject in view of the appalling lack of awareness of our country's history of both the native peoples and the European peoples interactions.
Becky
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Connie
This book provided a fascinating glimpse into Colonial American History with stories of white settlers taken captive by the French and their Native allies in pre-Revolutionary War America. One of those captive families were the Williams of Deerfield, MA. Since the father (and later his sons) were ministers, they provide one of the few records through their diaries and letters. The youngest child, Eunice, was also captured and re-appeared as an adult married to a Native American. The author also...more
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