Book summary: The Last Days of Dogtown

2005 BY ANITA DIAMANT

Set on the high ground at the heart of Cape Ann, the village of Dogtown is peopled by widows, orphans, spinsters, scoundrels, whores, free Africans, and "witches." Among the inhabitants of this hamlet are Black Ruth, who dresses as a man and works as a stonemason; Mrs. Stanley, an imperious madam whose grandson, Sammy, comes of age in her brothel; Oliver Younger, who survives a miserable childhood at the hands of his aunt; and Cornelius Finson, a freed slave. At the center of it all is Judy Rhines, a fiercely independent soul, deeply lonely, who nonetheless builds a life for herself against all imaginable odds.

Rendered in stunning, haunting detail, with Diamant's keen ear for language and profound compassion for her characters, The Last Days of Dogtown is an extraordinary retelling of a long-forgotten chapter of early American life.

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