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  • Mj Pettengill

Fall River: More Than Lizzie Borden


Fall River Mill Girls, Public Domain
Fall River Mill Girls, Public Domain

What is the Angels’ Lament? 1872—a time of radical social and economic change in America—a time for expansion, discovery, and healing. For some, it meant piecing together the fragments of their lives, rebuilding families, homes, and communities. For others, it was time to leave the safety of their small towns and venture into nearby, rapidly growing cities, to prosper and find their long-awaited independence as industrial wage earners.

The Angels’ Lament, by Mj Pettengill, is the second book in the Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series. In Book One, we become acquainted with the inmates, workers, and various individuals connected to the Carroll County Farm. We are afforded a brief glimpse into the life of Abigail Hodgdon’s sister Sarah. She leaves the family farm in the rugged New Hampshire landscape for the textile mills of Fall River, Massachusetts.

In the 1870s, Fall River was the second-largest producer of cotton cloth in the world. Manchester, England, was number one. During this time, along with the rapid increase of wealth for the few families that dominated the industry, a massive surge of immigration occurred, changing and reshaping the labor force, and altering the roles of men, women, and children for generations to come. The Angels’ Lament explores the complexities—torment and adversity, decay, and chaos—of the weaving together of that richly textured world.

The book illuminates the fundamental power struggles within the era’s political, economic, and cultural development. It was impossible to focus on one group without the others. As divided as they appeared to be, they were bound by their afflictions.

As agents of change, they often set aside their differences and came together to stand up for their rights. This civil unrest has been a work in progress for almost two centuries. Looking back, it may appear as if much has changed. However, Pettengill urges us to examine their efforts through a more transparent lens and refocus throughout the narrative.

In the face of oppressive paternalism, the growth of corporate power, and textile capitalism, the mill workers became victims of social and moral collapse due to public neglect, incalculable abuse, and greed, unknowingly paving the way for the future.

The narrative spans generations, reaching back to the shores of Ireland during the Great Hunger—a catastrophic historical event systematically deemphasized and misunderstood. The characters are fictitious, intended to bring voice to the long-forgotten, extraordinary folks silenced over time.

Sarah Hodgdon brings us into a spinner’s world while living in a cramped tenement unfit for humans. Her sheltered background could have been a fatal weakness, but her fortitude prevailed.

August Wood shares his experiences as a street kid in New York City, in and out of the Children’s Asylum, and on a westbound Orphan Train.

Bess Adams, pianist extraordinaire, daughter of an influential corporate lawyer, and surrounded by servants, seems to have it all.

How much do you know about our past? How much are you willing to acknowledge? For this is essential in ancestral, historical, and cultural trauma integration. We cannot heal what we are unwilling to look at or afraid to know. ~ Mj Pettengill, Author ~ The Angels’ Lament Book Two, Etched in Granite Historical Fiction Series