About the Book

How do you live your life when nobody, neither God nor the devil, keeps accounts any longer?

John “Wright” Wheelwright, descendant of the Indian-killer Isaac Wheelwright, the answer lies in adopting a seventeenth-century ghost and moving to an island in Boston harbor where he can keep his soul free of the pollution of twentieth-century America. Since childhood, Wright has been fascinated by Samuel Mavericke, who, even before the Puritans arrived, settled with his young bride in the New World, where they created their own Eden at the edge of the American wilderness.

Wright’s own search for a personal New World, however, is complicated by Hetty — his cousin, lover and wife —for whom the answer to the pollution of the modern world lies in the adoption of a set of autistic twins and in giving herself all too freely to anyone who needs her. While Wright champions isolation and purity, Hetty hungers for contact.

But it is in the character of the hyperironic King Philip — a Harvard-educated American Indian with ancestral obsessions of his own — that Wright meets his match. Philip’s claim, both moral and legal, to ownership of Mavericke’s Island, brings about the final confrontation between Wright and modern America. Philip’s invasion of the island and his holding of Wright and Hetty in captivity becomes the modern manifestation of Cousin Isaac’s self-realization nearly three hundred years earlier: “There is a Savagerie in the Hearts of Men which cannot be cured by Civilization.”


It was the fall before my captivity at the hands of King Philip that I discovered my wife was stealing from me. I started missing things at my dig: my vitamin pills, a mortise chisel, some wool socks. I tried to catch her in the act when she came to visit me, looked for bulges under her clothes when I ferried her from the island back to Boston, but my wife is secretive…