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Or Give Me Death: A Novel of Patrick Henry's Family: Novel of Patrick Henry's Family

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,491 Ratings  ·  123 Reviews
See, through the eyes of two of Patrick Henry's children, the secrets and horror going on within their home as their father rouses a nation to arms.
Hardcover, 223 pages
Published August 1st 2004 by Turtleback Books (first published July 4th 2003)
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Mar 25, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The idea behind Or Give me Death is based on the real lives of Patrick Henry's family. The mom in the family (named Sara, which gave me the willies) goes crazy. Of course, this is 1774, and there's no mental health care to be found. Instead, the family refurbishes their cellar and locks her down there. She spends four years (FOUR YEARS!) locked in the cellar before she dies. AGH!

The story is told from the POV of the eldest two of Sara's daughters, but I think that was an authorial mistake. The s
Apr 21, 2008 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cried at the end of this book!!
NSAndrew Liebergen
First off, I find this time in history very interesting. Now that I said that, I was completely blown away by the story of this book. The famous Patrick Henry has a wife that has a mental illness. He keeps her locked up in the cellar. Anne, one of the siblings has the secret knowledge of who will inherit her mother’s illness. The older sibling Patsy only longs to get married and live a life of privilege and pampering, while the younger 9 year old Anne, who narrates the second part of the story s ...more
Jun 22, 2012 Ali rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I have come to expect so much more from Ann Rinaldi. She was the first author to introduce me to the world of historical fiction. When I first started to read vigorously my aunt gifted me with the Ann Rinaldi book 'an aquantice with darkness" and after that I moved through the rest of her series rather rapidly. My favorite one to this day would be a 'break with charity' which explored the Salem witch trials. All of the novels that I have read by Rinaldi so far have female narrators, and "Or give ...more

We seldom consider the cost paid by the families of the men considered heroes. Patrick Henry worked tirelessly to help guide the colony of Virginia as it moved toward independence. His family suffered from his long absences; it was especially difficult for his wife, Sarah. As a result their daughter, Patsy, ended up caring for the children and the plantation, including the slaves. Patsy describes her mother’s decline into mental illness, the restlessness of her family’s slaves, and her own resen
Jun 26, 2009 Tristi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm a huge, huge, huge Ann Rinaldi fan and so of course I snatched this one up when I saw it. It's the story of Patrick Henry's home life, and doesn't focus nearly as much on Henry as it does his wife and children, but during this era, Henry was gone often defending others and laying the groundwork for our nation. In the meantime, his wife suffered a severe mental collapse and attempted to drown her newborn son.

Patsy, the Henry's oldest daughter, is the point of view character for the first half
Apr 24, 2016 LuAnn rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure how I feel about this book. It's disturbing to me. It successfully shows life for families of statesmen like Henry who give themselves to their work and limitations on slaves, women and people with mental health problems at the time. The story has shades of Rinaldi's Taking Liberty: The Story of Oney Judge, George Washington's Runaway Slave in raising issues about freedom for men, women and slaves.

Having dual points of view that shift in the middle, no real resolution and unanswered
Emma S.
Oct 23, 2014 Emma S. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I read Or Give Me Death by Ann Rinaldi, I felt as if I was always looking past a drawn curtain, looking at things that weren't meant to be seen. In Patrick Henry's household, his wife has gone insane and has been locked in the basement to be kept from harm. Only one child, Anne, knows who will inherit this madness, but no one knows if she is telling the truth about it. There are secrets kept hidden among all the family members. In truth, this book was mysterious -- revealing things I never ...more
Sarah Crawford
This is another Ann Rinaldi book centering around a famous character, Patrick Henry. The main focus, though, is on his family. The book is divided into two sections, the first telling the story from the viewpoint of Patsy, one of the daughters, and the second from the viewpoint of Anne, another daughter.

There are various problems in the family, including the fact that Patrick Henry is away from home a great deal of time and doesn't give much attention or affection to his children. A worse factor
Karissa Youngblood
This is a historical fiction book about Patrick Henry's daughter, Betsy. It talks about her struggles while her father is away and how she is strained with the care of her mother, who is going insane, and with the care of her younger siblings. Before he gives his life he is very active in America, to set things right. While he is away she has to take charge of the household at the age of 16.
I enjoyed this book a lot. I love historical fiction, in particular, Ann Rinaldi. She has always been one
Aug 09, 2008 Art rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Greater insight to the Words, "Give me liberty or Give me Death!" statement by Patrick Henry.
Insight to life on the frontier of the South and Plantation life.
Lynn O
Feb 23, 2016 Lynn O rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
historical fiction. The perspective switches from the older sister, Patsy, at the beginning of the book to the younger sister, Anne, around the middle. The story focuses on Patrick Henry's household and the effects of Mrs. Henry's mental illness. (It's generally billed as depression, but seems a bit more like psychosis/schizophrenia.) Fascinating to find out how people with mental illnesses were treated, and to what extent parents would leave their underaged children to fend for themselves durin ...more
Janie Johnson
This is really only my second historical novel I have ever read. And also my first book by this author. I did quite enjoy this story for the most part. I did feel as though it got away from the main plot just a little bit as I thought from the synopsis that it was, for the most part, going to be about Patrick Henry's wife locked in the cellar. Part of the story was about that but I feel like it was not the main plot line in story. I think the main idea of the story was more about when to lie and ...more
Dec 06, 2014 Janie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was my first Ann Rinaldi, and I have several more of her books that I look forward to reading. I'm always a little skeptical about reading juvenile fiction, historical or otherwise, at this stage of my life, but this was an engaging read.

Rinaldi is a self-made writer. She was groomed for that position with years of reading and writing in her job as a newspaper columnist. Her interest in historical fiction was fed from the urging of her son and her participation in his various interests in
(NS) Brea M
Gr. 7-9. One of the few novels to deal with the problem of insanity in early America, this opens in 1771, as Patrick Henry's 16-year-old daughter, Patsy, realizes that her mother is going insane. When Mrs. Henry's actions threaten the lives of her two youngest children, the family shut her away in a cellar room for the safety of all and to hide her dementia from the larger community. In 1773, Patsy's younger sister, Anne, takes over the narration, which concludes in 1778 with the breakdown of he ...more
Kayna Olsen
Jan 27, 2011 Kayna Olsen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-1-10
This is the story of Patrick Henry's family told from the perspectives of his two older daughters Patsy and Anne. Their mother Sarah has gone mad and the story begins with her attempting to drown Edward the newest arrival to the family. Patsy is betrothed but worries of inheriting her mother's sickness. Anne, younger than her has been told by their mother which child will inherit her madness. Anne then struggles through the book with questions about when to tell the truth and when to lie in orde ...more
Aug 11, 2011 Hannah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh Ann Rinaldi, how I've missed you! I didn't even realize it until I read this book, hoping that I wouldn't discover that, though you seemed like a wonderful writer when I was a teenager, I didn't like you that much as an adult. Fortunately, you have absolutely confirmed my liking of you.

First, the plot is fascinating, and surprisingly intricate, not just about Patrick Henry's wife going crazy, but about his daughters dealing with the fallout of keeping her basically imprisoned in the home in
Seahee Park
This book was such a great historical fiction novel. I really admire the idea of writing in two different perspectives. Most of the people only remember Patrick Henry by things he accomplished in politics. However, this book focuses on his family and how they supported him. It was pity that all the women back in the days were always alone at home, just standing behind their husband, and never showing their feelings. Even Patrick Henry wasn't a demanding man, he was too less careful and too occup ...more
Ann Rinaldi is a fantastic writer, and I've never not enjoyed one of her novels. They are all fascinating and exceptionally well researched, and Or Give Me Death was no different. The story starts in the eldest Henry daughter Patsy's narrative just when Sarah Henry is starting to lose her mind. I thought it was really interesting to see how mental illness was handled back then, especially in a family where the dad was famous and their reputation important. Rinaldi always does a great job of pro ...more
Ruth Anne
This historical fiction book was well written from two different point of views. Patrick Henry's wife(Sara)has gone mad, and because this is 1700's, no mental care is available. Instead of sending her to an asylum, they refurnish their cellar and lock her down there for four years until she dies, crying for them to give her freedom or give her death. While their mother is in the cellar, the family slowly falls apart, and the different ways the two sisters (the two narrators) try to repair its br ...more
Apr 09, 2010 Ashley rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is very possibly my least favorite of all Ann Rinaldi books I've come across. I wasn't overly impressed with the writing, the story line, or the characters. I never felt a true connection to the characters, and the girl who narrated the story in the beginning was obnoxious. I never liked her, and it is hard to enjoy a story when you don't like who is talking to you. I know it's probably pretty shallow- but if I listen to someone talking, and I don't like their speaking voice, I won't like t ...more
Jun 15, 2010 Kailia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Another Rinaldi and another historical novel. I have to admit that this was not one of my favorites (even if I've only read three of her books).

I did love the topic though. In school we're talked about these words "Give me liberty, or give me death." Quiet honestly I didn't know, or even think for a second, that Patrick Henry's wife might have said these words. And that she was insane? This was another thoughtful, engaging book that led us into the lives of the Henry household. With sister Patsy
Marné Yates
One if my least favorites from my good friend Ann. I would have liked it a lot better with a more developed storyline because it was about post partum depression. I could have connected to that very well- especially recently. However, as Rinaldi explains, there is not much to work with when it comes to information about Henry's family, so I have to give her some credit. Also, I will always love her.
Nov 28, 2014 Erin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great Ann Rinaldi book, told by the daughters of Patrick Henry. Unlike other books that take place at a house instead of war, it is a gripping story that will leave you questioning Patrick Henry and his family. Patsy is the first narrator, and she describes how the family must find a way to conceal their own mother as her mind starts to slip away. Definitely worth reading!
Tyler Johnson
Sep 18, 2014 Tyler Johnson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I very much enjoyed this book. I grew up quite near to Scotchtown and spent days there playing and dreaming, so the stories of Sarah Shelton are familiar to me. Rinaldi captures the grounds of the lovely old house and its dreary cellar, as well as the winds of change blowing up through Williamsburg. This would be a great book for a young person interested in Patrick Henry and the challenges faced by people in colonial Virginia. The central imagining is an inventive one and has caused me to refle ...more
Buzzwords: Historical fiction, shifting POV, revolutionary war, insanity, family

Told in two parts, each from a different point of view, Or Give Me Death is the story of Patrick Henry's family - his mad wife, locked in the cellar, and what her illness and confinement did to their family, even as Patrick Henry fought for America and its freedom. I never knew anything about Patrick Henry's family before,so learning about them was very interesting - don't miss the author's note at the end that expla
Jen Bojkov
This is a fascinating look at the Henry family told through the eyes of his second oldest daughter. With possible mental illness in the family, and of course the unrest of the times, there is plenty of drama to go around. I'm not sure how interesting this would be to teens, but I enjoyed it as an adult.
Aug 07, 2010 Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoy everything that Ann Rinaldi writes. I appreciate that her young adult fiction addresses weighty issues. Each book has a theme, a question that it asks the reader to deeply ponder. She lets us as the reader decide what is real, what is true. She doesn't preach.

This is the story of Patrick Henry's family. The events of the Revolutionary war are overshadowed by family tragedy: After the birth of their 6th child, Patrick's wife has gone mad. In order to protect her and the children, the fami
Jan 11, 2014 Kristen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Actual rating: 2.5 stars.

This book was pretty good. It had a good topic and a good plot. The first half was narrated by Patsy, Patrick Henry's eldest daughter. That was fine. I liked her character, and her personality coupled with the events she was dealing with made it easy to sympathize with her. But the 2nd half killed this book for me. Anne, another daughter was narrating, and her character was annoying, whiny, and didn't have respect for what other members of the house were going through. I
Lana Del Slay
I enjoyed this, as I do most of Rinaldi's work, but I'm not sure how well the narrative conceit worked. This could easily have been two whole novels, not one novel split into two novellas. I didn't get enough of either story to feel anything for this family.
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BYU-Adolescent Li...: Or Give Me Death 1 6 Jun 10, 2013 10:55AM  
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Ann Rinaldi (b. August 27, 1934, in New York City) is a young adult fiction author. She is best known for her historical fiction, including In My Father's House, The Last Silk Dress, An Acquaintance with Darkness, A Break with Charity, and Hang a Thousand Trees with Ribbons. She has written a total of forty novels, eight of which were listed as notable by the ALA. In 2000, Wolf by the Ears was lis ...more
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“When a woman's face is wrinkled
And her hairs are sprinkled,
With gray, Lackaday!
Aside she's cast,
No one respect will pay;
Remember, Lasses, remember.
And while the sun shines make hay:
You must not expect in December,
The flowers you gathered in May.”
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