Book Review: The Ransom of Mercy Carter by Caroline B. Cooney

Title: The Ransom of Mercy Carter
Author: Caroline B. Cooney
Genre: MG/YA Historical Fiction
Page Count: 258 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 9, 2011

Publisher’s Summary: Deerfield, Massachusetts is one of the most remote, and therefore dangerous, settlements in the English colonies. In 1704 an Indian tribe attacks the town, and Mercy Carter becomes separated from the rest of her family, some of whom do not survive. Mercy and hundreds of other settlers are herded together and ordered by the Indians to start walking. The grueling journey — three hundred miles north to a Kahnawake Indian village in Canada — takes more than 40 days. At first Mercy’s only hope is that the English government in Boston will send ransom for her and the other white settlers. But days turn into months and Mercy, who has become a Kahnawake daughter, thinks less and less of ransom, of Deerfield, and even of her “English” family. She slowly discovers that the “savages” have traditions and family life that soon become her own, and Mercy begins to wonder: If ransom comes, will she take it?

My Thoughts: Goddess of Yesterday is one of my favorite-ever books, so when I noticed Caroline B. Cooney had another historical-based fiction in her backlist, I picked it up. Mercy Carter is living on the settlement of Deerfield, Massachusetts during the French and Indian War when she is abducted, along with most of her village, by Kahnawake Indians. This is an interesting and thought-provoking story of history, survival, culture and, let’s face it, Stockholm Syndrome, as Mercy adapts to a completely new lifestyle as a Kahnawake daughter.

We never do get the clearest answers of why, exactly, the Kahnawake let some of the settlers live and others die, but each of the characters and their motivations was quietly fascinating, and I learned a lot about the French and Indian War that I hadn’t previously known. I especially enjoyed the Puritans’ depictions of Catholics, how Mercy came around to accepting the village priest and his traditions, and the complex but also endearing blend of cultures. I would’ve enjoyed this story far better in grade school than the ones they made us read (no offense to Sign of the Beaver). The Ransom of Mercy Carter is a solid MG/lower-YA North American Historical Fiction with a brave and compassionate female protagonist.

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