mood music: me and the devil – Soap&Skin
I had never heard of Brom and I was unfamiliar with his work before picking up this book. I found out about this book through TikTok and was intrigued by the premise, even if it was something that was outside of my usual reading genres.
Slewfoot is set in colonial New England, a few years after the Salem Witch Trials. The protagonist, Abitha, is a young woman who is a fairly recent arrival to the colonies as she is originally from England. She has been married to a Puritan farmer, Edward, and they reside on the outskirts of their town on his farm. While Abitha feels repressed by the Puritan lifestyle, she is allowed some liberties as she resides outside of the eyes of their community members. Her mother, now deceased (this seems to be a recurring theme in my books this year), dabbled in spirituality and witchcraft, and Abitha has kept up with some of her mother’s teachings much to the dismay of her husband. Should she be caught, she could be tried and hanged for witchcraft in her deeply repressed community.
Unfortunately, her marriage with Edward is short-lived as he dies under mysterious circumstances in connection to the revival of Slewfoot. A mythical creature, Slewfoot is half man, half beast, and stalks the forest outside of Abitha’s home.
Abitha and Slewfoot form a connection, she renames him Samson after her goat, and together they bond and explore each other’s powers and abilities while trying to understand who the other is. All the while, Abitha is dealing with her vile brother-in-law, Wallace, who has been trying to steal Edward’s farm as a manner to repay his own debts. Without Edward to protect her, Abitha has to come up with a means of survival, even if this means dabbling in the dark arts.
I appreciated the themes in this story, which included feminine rage, the dangers of the patriarchy, religious repression, and hysteria. I don’t usually dabble with period pieces when it comes to my readings, so I was pleasantly surprised that I found the story enjoyable. Brom also included some hand-drawn character portraits at the end of the book, so you can place a face on some of the names, which I thought was a nice touch.