Thursday, February 5, 2009
Review: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Title: The Witch of Blackbird Pond
Author: Elizabeth George Speare
Category: Young Adult
Setting: Connecticut Colony, 1687
Challenge: Young Adult Challenge
With this book, I'm now two books down in the Young Adult Challenge and have ten more to go. One thing I'm really enjoying about this challenge is the sense that I'm kinda reliving my youth through the stories of these young characters. I'm also learning patience with characters. Normally if I feel that a character is being immature, I quit reading the book, but with YA I'm reminded that the characters are young and are allowed to be immature and selfish from time to time. Hopefully this new patience will bleed over to my normal reading.
The Witch of Blackbird Pond opens with orphaned Katherine "Kit" Tyler aboard the Dolphin on her way to Connecticut Colony. Kit has journeyed from her life long home in Barbados to travel to Connecticut following the death of her grandfather which has left her alone and penniless. Her last living relative is her mothers sister, Rachel, whom Kit has never met. Rachel and her husband have settled in the Puritan community of Connecticut and with nowhere else to go, Kit hopes that they will welcome her arrival.
Kit's unexpected arrival at her aunt's house brings about a mixed welcome. Her aunt is happy to have her sister's daughter show up and welcomes her immediately. Her two cousins, Judith and Mercy, welcome her with a little apprehension, and her Uncle isn't in good spirits about Kit's arrival. Over the weeks to come, Kit tries to fit into the household, but she finds it a hard thing to do. Having been waited on all her life in Barbados, she can't seem to be able to do anything right. Cooking, cleaning, weeding, spinning - all come hard to her and she feels as though she's not much help to anyone.
Kit is out of place in this new world and longs for her old life in Barbados. Then her life changes when she finds a meadow that gives her the only solace she's known since her arrival. In the meadow by Blackbird Pond lives an old Quaker woman labeled The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Kit is warned against going anywhere near the witch's little cabin, but she can't seem to stay away from the meadow. One day she comes face to face with the old Quaker woman and realizes that Hannah is not a witch at all, just a lonely woman.
Against her aunt's wishes, Kit goes to visit Hannah often and a friendship is forged between the two. But then the colony faces a horrible occurrence and witchcraft is thought to be involved. Hannah falls prey to the colony's wrath and when they can't get to her, they go after Kit. What comes next changes the relationships around Kit and brings to her a love that she never thought she would find in Connecticut.
I had so much fun reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond. At 249 pages, it was a quick read, but not as light as might be expected. The story deals with trials of the time, religion, slavery, family relationships, and prejudice. Kit finds herself in the middle of an always changing world as her uncle struggles with other's to preserve Connecticut's charter. There is also a love story that involves all of the younger characters in the story making it a well intentioned yet convoluted love hexagon. Luckily, it has a fitting resolution.
Kit in the beginning of the story is just as most sixteen year old girls are: self involved. But as the story progresses, she loses her ever present self-importance and is able to open her eyes to the people around her. When she finally does that, the story becomes something truly meaningful. Kit's struggle with reconciling the life she once had with the one she has in Connecticut was heartfelt and by the end of the book, I hoped that she would find the happiness that everyone around her had. When she finally did, it was sigh-worthy. The Witch of Blackbird Pond was a delight to read.