The author of the highly recommended intergenerational saga Tree of Life (Fiction Forecasts, June 29) moves from her native Guadeloupe to colonial New England in this potent novel. Revising the legend of a slave woman accused of practicing witchcraft and imprisoned in Salem, Mass., in 1692, Conde freely imagines Tituba's childhood and old age, endows her with what Davis calls a contemporary social consciousness, and allows her to narrate the tale. Her pointedly political story indicts the Puritans' racism and hypocrisy and their contemporary manifestations. Conceived when an English sailor rapes an Ashanti captive on the slave ship Christ the King , Tituba grows up in Barbados but follows her beloved, John Indian, into servitude in America when he is sold to minister Samuel Parris. Charged with witchcraft when she heals Parris's wife and daughters, she shares a jail cell with Hester Prynne, who helps her plan her testimony before the Salem judges. Eventually reprieved, Tituba is bought by a Jew, himself persecuted, who frees her and gives her passage to Barbados. At once playful and searing, Conde's work critiques ostensibly white, male versions of history and literature by appropriating them.