A Historical Novel Concerning the Shakers: "The Visionist"

Jun 17, 2014

On this installment of ST, we speak with Rachel Urquhart, a writer whose work has been published in The New Yorker, Tin House, Elle, The New York Times, Vogue, and Spy, among other publications. Urquhart has recently published her first novel, "The Visionist," which is a widely acclaimed historical drama about a teenage girl who finds refuge --- or perhaps does not find refuge --- in an 1840s Shaker community. As was noted of this novel is a starred review in Shelf Awareness: "Rich with history and mystical intrigue, Urquhart's American gothic is capable of sending chills across your skin one moment, then warming your heart the next.... The story is as eerie as it is heartrending, weighing miracle against coincidence, deviation against sincerity, with the remnants of one rural family hanging in the balance. 'The Visionist' will have you holding your breath until the final, magnificent revelation." And further, as The San Francisco Chronicle observed: "Urquhart's shatteringly original debut transports readers.... 'The Visionist' is told in three eloquent voices, Polly, Sister Charity, and Simon Pryor, all blazingly alive, each walking a high-wire act of moral choices.... [This book offers] writing so rich, so detailed, that you not only come to care for all the characters deeply, you also become so immersed in the world of the Shakers, you can almost feel the floor moving as they stomp in ecstatic dance. Part mystery and part thriller, 'The Visionist' is also a shimmering exploration of identity."