Book Review: Dear America: I Walk in Dread, The Diary of Deliverance Trembly, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials (Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1691) by Lisa Rowe Fraustino

walkindreadOne of my favorites in the DA series, “I Walk In Dread” is more than just a diary, but an incredible story about the Salem Witch Trials, told from a very unique perspective that cannot, in my knowledge, be found among any other Salem Witch literature. There is nothing supernatural in this book, first of all, and it is clear to the reader that the cause of the ‘attacks’ are not actual witches. As the reader may glean from the narrative, and then especially afterward in the author’s notes, the strange events were most likely a product of the mixture of superstitious, zealous officials, paired with the fact that young girls–who in that place and time were the lowest rung on society’s totem pole, and were never listened to nor given any attention, value, or credit– were listened to and given credit and power to have executed those they disliked, when claiming to be under supernatural attack.

In this story, the main character, Deliverance (Liv), is an intelligent girl who lives alone with her sickly elder sister, Remembrance (Mem). Their uncle is supposed to be caring for them, but he has more or less abandoned them, so they must keep his absence and the fact that they are alone a secret. Because Liv keeps a diary and is skeptical about whether she believes in witches, her sister Mem worries for her and even suspects that Liv is a witch. Liv also visits with another literate and intelligent woman, with whom she reads the Bible and other Puritan literature, and because this woman is one of the few who does not believe in witches and sees through the mass hysteria of the other villagers, she is persecuted and imprisoned.
Among the memorable scenes are when some of the girls participate in using a “venus glass,” which is when a girl breaks an egg into a glass of pure water and discerns the shape the yolk takes in the water to predict whom she will marry. This was considered a forbidden practice of divination/witchcraft to the Puritans. There is also an unforgettable scene where Liv and Mem fight tooth and nail over Liv’s diary, and when Liv finally exclaims, “No, I do not believe in witches anymore! Why would the Devil need the magic of witches to do his work when he has plenty of stupid people to do it for him?” Also memorable are the men who stop by their house and who eventually marry into their family. A great book with the series’ best protagonist.