81 pages • 2 hours readHoward Fast
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The story begins with Adam Cooper doing chores on his family farm in Lexington, Massachusetts. His father (Moses Cooper) criticizes him for being “slow to start and quick to finish” (3). He tells Adam to draw water for his mother (Sarah “Goody” Cooper). Adam is consumed with morbid thoughts while drawing the water and says a folk spell to ward off evil. His younger brother Levi overhears this and then threatens to tell their father.
When he delivers the water to his mother, he sits at the table and she chastises him for not using his time more wisely. She tells him that his father used to memorize the Book of Lamentations between chores when he was young.
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Adam then proceeds upstairs and finds his grandmother (Granny Cooper). He asks if his father really memorized Lamentations, and she confirms it. Adam responds, “I think we keep saying things that we don’t really mean at all, Granny” (7), then asks if she believes in God. He brings up a man, Isaiah Peterkin, whom everyone in town knows to be “mean and wicked” (8) though he is also a deacon in the church.
By Howard Fast