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A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials
A Break with Charity A Story about the Salem Witch Trials
Author: Ann Rinaldi
Susanna desperately wants to join the circle of girls who meet every week at the parsonage. What she doesn't realize is that the leader of the group, the malicious Ann Putnam, is about to set off a torrent of false accusations leading to the imprisonment and execution of countless innocent people. When Susanna puts the pieces together, ...  more »
ISBN-13: 9780152046828
ISBN-10: 0152046828
Publication Date: 7/1/2003
Pages: 320
Reading Level: Young Adult
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.

4 stars, based on 63 ratings
Publisher: Gulliver Books
Book Type: Paperback
Other Versions: Hardcover
Members Wishing: 0
Reviews: Member | Amazon | Write a Review

Top Member Book Reviews

reviewed A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials on + 10 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 2
This is a fictional book about the Salem Witch Trials. It's interesting and intriguing because it puts things in different perspectives.
reviewed A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials on + 19 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
Rinaldi does an excellent job writing historical novels for young readers, and this book is no exception.
reviewed A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials on
Helpful Score: 1
AWESOME way of telling the story from a young girls point of view. Historical fiction at its best. The author brings you all the way back in time and pulls you in!
Great book
reviewed A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials on + 3 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 1
A book concerning the events of the Salem Witch Trials in Salem, Massachusetts. Its a good read gives you how civilization reacted to situations out of the norm. A good read if you are interested about history.
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reviewed A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials on + 300 more book reviews
A blend of fiction and history, this book brings to life the time in America's history when innocent women and children were accused of being witches and were imprisoned and put to death.

In spite of what she thinks, Susanna does NOT need to become a member of the elite circle of girls who meet every week at the parsonage.......
terez93 avatar reviewed A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials on + 323 more book reviews
It's ceaselessly fascinating to read of how authors from different backgrounds interpret the events surrounding one of the most tragic episodes in early American history: the Salem Witch Trials. This young adult fictional account features the actual historical persons as characters, so they have some built-in background, which is hard to ignore if you're familiar with the events and individuals in question. That said, it's always somewhat disconcerting, to me, at least, that the characters were once actual living persons, who are, by necessity, reduced to two-dimensional stereotypes in fictional accounts, which, as a historian, always gives me pause. For that reason, it's helpful to know some of the events and details of the lives of individuals featured, which makes this and other historic novels much more rich and complete accounts, as the description in general is usually a little thin, and this one is no exception.

This short novel is written from the first-person perspective of Susanna English, the daughter of a wealthy shipping merchant, who gets caught up in the events surrounding the fervor which led to the tragic deaths of twenty people, nineteen of them by hanging. Susanna lives with her parents in Salem Town (now Danvers) as opposed to Salem Village, some three miles away, which was much more impoverished and imperiled. Most people don't realize that there were actually TWO Salems, but relations were anything but amicable. As the novel accurately portrays, there was evidently some vicious rivalry and jealousy between the "townies" and the more rural residents of the struggling village, which was constantly under the threat of attack and famine.

The village to a much greater degree also fell under the sway of its ministers, a string of seemingly unhinged individuals who ruled with an iron fist, and whose heavy-handed dictates would shame the most conservative religious zealots of the modern day. As the fictional Tituba notes in this account, "the wolves which howl in the night on the edge of town are more innocent." Not only was there conflict among the two nascent settlements: animosities and jealousies not commonly associated with Puritan values rent the village into competing factions, particularly among the landowning families whose rivalries played out center stage during the trials. The fictional Tituba muses: "Do you know what Salem means? ... 'City of Peace.' But there is no peace in this place. There is nothing but hate."

The author chooses to place at the center of the episode a clique of preteen girls from the village, whose jealousies are on display for all to see when they reject lonely Susanna from their illicit activities with Tituba, who, as a slave from Barbados, conjures folk magic for them to fill their empty lives with some measure of entertainment. Susanna has known for some time that this group of girls has been engaging in secret activities, which at one point she herself sought to join. Because she was considered an outsider, and a wealthy one at that, however, whom some of the girls believe to have flaunted her wealth and privilege by wearing silk dresses and traveling to Boston, she was rejected by them. Sent into the village by her mother to distribute goods to the poorer families as charity, Susanna one day goes to Tituba for fortune telling, to ask whether her missing brother will ever make it home.

There, she encounters one of the villains of the whole account, Ann Putnam (Junior), a twelve-year-old girl whose tender years belie her vicious nature, which may well have been the case. In the fictional account, she actually tells Susanna at one point that her mother has put her up to the whole thing, to take revenge on her neighbors, a claim with at least some historic veracity. Some have openly made the claim, in fact, that the Witchcraze which occurred in this impoverished village was nothing more than an attempt at a land grab by some of the families, the Putnams in particular, who had been involved in an endless series of lawsuits and quarrels with their neighbors for generations. The strife, animosity and rivalries ran deep, and when opportunity knocked, smoldering embers exploded into a raging brush fire that quickly got out of control, consuming all in its path.

And then, there is the very real possibility that some persons were simply mad, including the first "bewitched" child, Betty Parris, along with her cousin Abigail (who was a twelve-year-old at the time of these events, not the teenage temptress portrayed in the most famous fictional account of the Salem Witch Trials, "The Crucible"), who had to have been endlessly terrorized by her fire-and-brimstone, hellfire-breathing minister father, Samuel Parris. This much-maligned figure was universally hated, and was eventually driven from the pulpit, but not before time: nineteen had already gone to the gallows, some at his instigation. Parris is almost certainly responsible for much of the madness: had he injected some reason into the situation and attempted to dispel the paranoia and ever-increasing fervor of his diminutive flock, events would have likely not spiraled out of control.

And then there is the account of the bereaved mother, who accuses women, one Rebecca Nurse in particular, an elderly, charitable woman with eight children of her own, of the supernatural murder of the woman's own infants. It is unclear whether the accusation was out of jealousy and spite, because Rebecca's children had survived, grief which had driven the woman mad - as a plausible explanation as to why her numerous children had died while the offspring of others had lived, or as an opportunity for self-enrichment. In actuality, it was likely some combination of all of the above, but no matter how many fictional and non-fictional books are written, we will never know.

I won't provide too many spoilers other than to state that of course, Susanna's family is accused of witchcraft. The second half of the novel does an admirable job of describing what had to be at least a moderately accurate portrayal of what the family went through, with the terrors and anxieties of their ordeal accurately and poignantly described, through the eyes of the daughter who could only sit helplessly and watch the events unfold. The novel isn't as rich and well-developed as I would have liked, but it is geared toward young adults, so that's forgivable. Overall, it was a worthwhile read, good for anyone interested in this period of history and who wants to get an at-least-moderately accurate portrayal of what the persons who actually survived this incident endured.
reviewed A Break with Charity: A Story about the Salem Witch Trials on + 3 more book reviews
I really enjoyed reading this book! This time period in history is fascinating and it was fun to read it from the perspective of someone who could have lived there then.

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