Rachel's Reviews > A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials

A Break with Charity by Ann Rinaldi
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's review
May 09, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: young-adult, historical-fiction
Read in May, 2012

I'm a little torn on this one . . . I was pretty bothered by what I think were big historical inaccuracies (granted, I'm no historian and definitely not an expert on this time period . . . or any time period, really . . . but I read this alongside a few nonfiction accounts of the Salem witch trials and none of them jive with the lifestyles, thought processes, and reasoning portrayed in this book). I struggled to get past things like, for example, young girls traveling miles alone in the dead of winter through Massachusetts to visit with friends (all things that would never have happened at this time--from what I've learned, girls wouldn't have gone anywhere alone, wouldn't have traveled unnecessarily in the winter, and wouldn't have met with friends purely for fun [would have been pleasurable . . . Puritan evil!]). Even the motives behind the trials and accusations in this book were hard for me to swallow . . . based on what I've been reading (and again, no expert here, just a curious reader), they weren't a malicious move by spiteful, cruel little girls. Even smaller details, like a well-spoken, articulate, almost sarcastic John Indian (a slave!), or an extremely modern-thinking, almost feminist, Susannah (and family) were hard for me to believe and really took away from my enjoyment of the book. I certainly could be mistaken or misinformed about all these historical details, but it just seemed to me like Rinaldi took an awful lot of liberties with the lifestyle and thoughts of the time.

But on the other hand, those same liberties and changes really affected the 'moral' and reading of the book. All of the changes she made--gossipy, hurtful girls causing rumors, forward-thinking main character deciding whether or not she could/should take a stand against them, etc.--turned it into sort of a cautionary tale about teenage hurtfulness, rebellion, rumors, judgment, etc. I think it would be a great read for middle school or early high school kids. It might not be the most historically accurate portrayal of events, which bothered me as an adult reader, but its certainly a great book for young adults. I would definitely recommend it as a young adult read, if not as an accurate historical fiction. I guess it just depends what you're reading it for.
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