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.

Book Review: Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

After experiencing a deep personal sorrow, Salamanca’s Native American mother, Chanhassen, leaves her husband and daughter, for a time, to find herself. She takes a bus tour westward from their Kentucky home out to Idaho. When Chanhassen does not return, Sal and her grandparents decide to retrace Chanhassen’s steps by car on a road trip together. Sal plans to find and bring her mother home.

While sightseeing cross-country and ensuring they make all the stops that Chanhassen’s bus made, Sal enjoys her grandparents’ stories and company. Meanwhile, she weaves a yarn to them about her “friend” Phoebe, whose mother also disappeared, but continued to send Phoebe mysterious messages. As Phoebe’s story unfolds, so does Sal’s in this heartbreaking but beautiful YA novel, entitled Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech.

I should warn that this book will bring on the tears. It is an exquisite work of YA fiction, emotionally investing and geographically inspiring! The characters do not soon leave the reader. I highly recommend this unforgettable book to all ages. Creech poignantly teaches that life does continue after tragedy, love conquers all, and that one should never judge a person until having “walked two moons in his moccasins.”

Book Review: Dear America: The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, A Navajo Girl (New Mexico, 1864) by Ann Turner

sorrowThis is a sad story about the forced relocation and concentration of the Navajo people, who were forced to leave their homes and walk hundreds of miles in the snow, many dying on the way. The book is sad from start to finish. I do remember one scene in which a soldier takes a liking to the main character. Like all of the DA books, it is hard to put down. This was a particularly tragic chapter in American history.

Book Review: Dear America: My Heart is on the Ground, The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, A Sioux Girl (Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania 1880) by Ann Rinaldi

heartongroundNannie Little Rose leaves her home and family to become educated and integrated into white society among a diverse student body of other Native American tribes at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. In current culture, this is a controversial depiction of this sad topic.

Throughout this story, Nannie tries to fuse her Sioux upbringing, beliefs, and family’s values with her new experiences at the Carlisle School, including seeking wisdom from her spirit helper, a mouse in the school kitchen, and a fierce rivalry between another girl, Belle Rain Water. Nannie learns lessons of love and forgiveness. It is an engaging read, but may fail to fully express the harm that was done to the Native communities by taking children from their families and “integrating” them in this way.

Book Review: Dear America: Standing in the Light, The Captive Diary of Catharine Carey Logan (Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania 1763) by Mary Pope Osborne

standing“Standing in the Light” is a beautiful story that stands (no pun intended) on its own, even outside of the DA series. In this diary, thirteen-year-old farmgirl Caty is just like any other Quaker girl in her Delaware Valley, Pennsylvania society, until she and her seven-year-old brother Thomas are abducted by Lenape Indians. At first, she detests the “savages” who stole her from her home and altered her entire life as she knew it, and she dreaded the worst for her and her brother– torture or death. But as the Lenape treat them kindly and incorporate them into their families and village, Caty and her brother learn the Lenape’s ways, become part of them, and begin to love them.

(*SPOILER WARNING*) Caty’s affection for the Indians grows to the point where she falls in love with a fellow English-captive-turned-Native, and is subsequently miserable upon her eventual “rescue” and return home to her family. Because of her transformation among and love for the Indians, no one in her society can relate to her, nor even wants to associate with her any longer.

This book ends sadly. Being one of the few white people in her village with compassion for Natives, she is unfortunately destined for a lonely and misunderstood life. Also evident throughout this novel are undertones of religious and spiritual unity, as this devout Quaker girl comes to understand her Christian God as the same being as the Indians’ Great Spirit, only called by a different name. A hauntingly touching and tragic story, and one which I enthusiastically recommend.