Monday, December 14, 2009

The Afflicted Girls by Suzy Witten

Book Reviewed by Helena Gowan / Edited and posted by Mirella Patzer.

This 17th century New England tale unfolds with the burial of a baby of the Putnam family, leading the reader into a sinister world, where not every mourner present has good intentions and a clear conscience.

Two orphans, Mercy and Abigail, travel to Salem Village, but along the way, have an accident. Two men come to their rescue, one of which is named Joseph. Mercy, who has special powers she likes to keep secret, becomes infatuated with Joseph, who is vain and weak. She is placed into indenture with the bitter Putnam family, where she quickly wins the hearts of the Putnam girls, as only the girls survived their infancy. Abigail, however, settles in her uncle’s house.

Entangled in her hopeless love, Mercy asks Bridget Bishop, the attractive female innkeeper of a jovial high-road tavern for a love charm. Abigail finds out about the secret charm that should make Joseph fall in love with Mercy. About the same time she discovers a Caribbean slave making cakes from a strange plant. Curious things happen to people who eat them. Underestimating the plant’s powers, Abigail distributes the cakes as charms and people soon become ill. In the resulting hysteria, the wheels of witchcraft investigation are set in motion by revenge, malice, and greed.

Suzy Witten has managed to make a familiar story her own. The story is told in many voices and points of view. The writing is rich and in-period, her research has been done well, and the added poems and quotations provide an extra air of authenticity.

With all the story’s gloominess and doom, Suzie Witten ends with a high note, whre sound reasoning prevails. All readers like myself who don’t mind a bit of horror and fantasy in historical fiction and appreciate a quirky tone should enjoy this new twist on the happenings in Salem Village so many years ago.

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