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Spider in a Tree

“Stinson restores personhood and complexity to figures who have shriveled into caricature. . . . the payoff is not just the recovered history but the beautifully evoked sense of lives lived under the eye, not only of prying neighbors, but of God, with all the terror and possibility that entailed.”
Publishers Weekly.

Jonathan Edwards is considered America’s most brilliant theologian. He was also a slave owner. This is the story of the years he spent preaching in eighteenth century Northampton, Massachusetts.

In his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” Mr. Edwards compared a person dangling a spider over a hearth to God holding a sinner over the fires of hell. Here, spiders and insects preach back. No voice drowns out all others: Leah, a young West African woman enslaved in the Edwards household; Edwards’s young cousins Joseph and Elisha, whose father kills himself in fear for his soul; and Sarah, Edwards’ wife, who is visited by ecstasy. Ordinary grace, human failings, and extraordinary convictions combine in unexpected ways to animate this New England tale.

Launch party/reading: October 2, 7 pm, Forbes Library, Northampton, Mass.

“Stinson reads the natural world as well as Scripture, searching for meaning. But instead of the portents of an angry god, what she finds there is something numinous, complicated, and radiantly human.”
—Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home

“Through an ardent faith in the written word Susan Stinson is a novelist who translates a mundane world into the most poetic of possibilities.”
—Alice Sebold, author of The Lovely Bones

“Wonderfully fuses the historic and the imaginative.”
—Kenneth Minkema, Executive Director, Jonathan Edwards Center

Susan Stinson is the author of three novels and a collection of poetry and lyric essays and was awarded the Lambda Literary Foundation’s Outstanding Mid-Career Novelist Prize. Writer in Residence at Forbes Library in Northampton, Massachusetts, she is also an editor and writing coach.

Susan also gives Northampton History and Jonathan Edwards cemetery walking tours for individuals or groups.


Writing Room at Forbes Library
Wednesday and Saturday mornings

Local History/​Local Novelist Series at Forbes Library
Reading/Lecture Series Curator

Monthly Radio Segment: Book Swap
With Bob Flahery, WHMP

Massachusetts Library Assocation Conference, April 26, 2013
Panel: Books in the Electronic Age

Smith College Summer at Smith
Talk: “The Connecticut River Valley as Literary Landscape” July 2013<

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