When Mary sees her grandmother accused of witchcraft and hanged for the crime, she is silently hurried to safety by an unknown woman. The woman gives her tools to keep the record of her days - paper and ink. Mary is taken to a boat in Plymouth and from there sails to the New World where she hopes to make a new life among the pilgrims. But old superstitions die hard and soon Mary finds that she, like her grandmother, is the victim of ignorance and stupidity, and once more she faces important choices to ensure her survival. With a vividly evoked environment and characters skilfully and patiently drawn, this is a powerful literary achievement by Celia Rees that is utterly engrossing from start to finish.
Though much of Rees's debut novel moves at a lackadaisical pace, its opening scenes are riveting: Mary, 14, watches as her grandmother the only family she has ever known is tortured, tried and finally hung as a witch. Afterward, a mysterious protector sends Mary away from England with a group of Puritans bound for a remote Massachusetts settlement an odd haven indeed for a girl reputed to be a witch. The book unfolds through Mary's diary entries. She tries to be "the perfect little Puritan maid" during the voyage and, upon reaching America, travels with her fellow passengers to a new settlement. But there Mary is drawn to the forest and a Native American boy, Jaybird (grandson of an elder who is, of course, a wise healer), raising the suspicions of her neighbors. Crisis looms when Mary becomes the scapegoat of a witch trial centering on the hysterical behavior of a gaggle of privileged Puritan girls (shades of The Crucible). Though the story is filled with authentic-seeming historic detail, Mary behaves more like a 21st-century teenager with a penchant for things New Age than a product of her own era: she is, for example, one of the only settlers enlightened enough to appreciate the local Native Americans ("The Indians go lightly in the world, that is all"). An afterword provides links to a Web site, as well as a request for "information regarding any of the individuals and families mentioned." A sequel is forthcoming. Hampered by wandering story lines and some stereotyped supporting cast members, this seductive material never quite comes together. Nevertheless, it will likely attract teen horror fans who flocked to The Blair Witch Project (a "foreword" hints at similar trappings, claiming that the story has been pieced together from a collection of papers found sewn into a colonial-era quilt). Ages 12-up.
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I love this story
This is a great story; lullabies me to sleep on countless nights. The only downfall is that I have purchased it twice as it evaporated in an update and now it will only work on an upgraded iOS that I refuse to do after losing 50% of my apps after an update from iOS 10 to 11. So sad that I, once again, don’t have access to this wonderful story.