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Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl: A Novel Kindle Edition
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|Length: 164 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
|Page Flip: Enabled||
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|Age Level: 8 - 12|
|Grade Level: 3 - 7|
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Well written (and edited), thought provoking, and told in a way that keeps the reader's attention.
I have mixed feelings about Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl--and I think it comes down to whether this is a novel or a work of creative non-fiction. When I picked it up, I was excited by the idea of another story along the lines of Indian Captive, which I loved as a girl. Strong characters, compelling plot, intriguing world. But this isn't that.
This book reads more like a historical summary of the characters, and never approaches close POV. I read in the author's note that he is a historian and was inspired by research, and that this is his first attempt at a children's book. I think that shows pretty clearly.
So, this book is a good read if you are mostly just after a quick, distant look at the main story. It had a lot of great details about life in a Mohawk village and issues happening during the time period. I personally found the story interesting because of its information, but only read for the information--I was not compelled by the characters, because we were in such a distant third person it read more like a history book than a story. If I were not a naturally curious and stubborn adult type, I probably wouldn't have finished this.
Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl is excellent if you're after general history and the basics of a good story. But if you want something more engrossing and character-driven, I'd recommend picking up Indian Captive instead.
Like Sandra Warren whose book, SHE STARTED IT ALL, was reviewed last week, John Demos wrote this work of fiction after researching and writing a nonfiction account The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America which was published in 1995.
I presume that the author used John Williams book, The Redeemed Captive, his account of being kidnapped and returned to Massachusetts. (The hard copy of PURITAN GIRL, MOHAWK GIRL includes substantial author's notes on the historical documentation along with details filled in by the author's knowledge of French Canadian, Puritan, and Mohawk customs and beliefs. Unfortunately these were not a part of the audio recording.)
The story graphically depicts Eunice's capture, the death of her mother and younger sister, and her abduction by the Mohawks. She is adopted by a woman who has lost her daughter. One year later, John Williams travels to try and get her back but is rebuffed by the chief who says that she belongs to them now. He leaves with the image of Eunice begging him to take her back home.
Eunice receives a Mohawk name (Waongote), learns the language, and the history of the tribe. Two years later when a trader comes to the village and tries to convince her to come home, she has no desire to leave her Mohawk family and has totally forgotten the English language. When her father hears of this, it is a source of great grief and sorrow and he never truly gives up hope that she will return.
When she is a teen of marriageable age, she receives the name Kanenstewnhawi and marries a Mohawk man who has already converted to Catholicism. The priests didn’t want to marry them in the church knowing how her father and the English will be upset that she was married as a Catholic Mohawk. They also didn’t want them to live in sin, so they're faced with a political and spiritual dilemma. The couple ends up getting married in a very small ceremony in the church. The priests want to keep it secret, but news gets back to her father through traders. Reverand Williams was shocked. How could she become Catholic and marry a savage?
As an adult, memories finally return to her of her former life and the raid; she blames her father for her mother's death. Long after her father dies, she returns to Massachusetts to see her brothers. Despite her family's prayers and petitions, she remains a Mohawk until her death. She is interested in receiving her share of her father's estate but is unable to receive it as a Mohawk.
John Demos certainly dug deep to write this story, but the book reads more like an historical narrative than a work of fiction. The reader will gain a lot of information about the French Mohawks as well as the conflict between the Puritans and Catholics during colonial times, but the narrator tells the story, rather than Eunice herself. This distant storytelling technique make the novel less immersive. Other book reviewers mention this problem likening it more to a biography than a work of historical fiction.
Although I can't dispute Mr. Demos's research, it feels like a bit of a stretch that Eunice is so immersed in the Mohawk culture that she totally forgets who she is. She is Caucasian with light hair and obviously looked very different than the people around her. Wouldn’t she have questioned that?
These concerns aside, I still think PURITAN GIRL, MOHAWK GIRL would be an interesting curriculum resource that will spark considerable classroom discussion.
I especially liked how the true tale describes the ways that everyone lived and travelled. Different cultures, names and religions impose themselves on Eunice - the names could confuse young readers. We see that making a living was hard dirty work for everyone. This book could be a class read or material for a history project.
I downloaded an e-ARC from Net Galley. This is an unbiased review.