Review: I Walk in Dread

I Walk in Dread: The Diary of Deliverance Trembley, Witness to the Salem Witch Trials, Massachusetts Bay Colony, 1691I Walk in Dread
by Lisa Rowe Fraustino

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I Walk in Dread / 0-439-24973-2

This is a spectacular rendition of the Salem history. The author walks an incredibly fine line here, and manages to be perfectly respectful of religious belief whilst still maintaining a healthy concern that the witch-hunters may be motivated by causes other than the supernatural. Illness, maliciousness, boredom, and confusion are all presented here as possible motives for the hysteria. I'm pleased that the book does not focus only on the "accusing girls"; an important point is carefully made about the magistrates at the trials and their complete unwillingness to consider any possibility that the accused might be innocent. This is a crucial lynch-pin issue of the Salem trials, and I was pleased that it was noted so carefully here.

Tension in the book is heightened by the fact that the author's own sister is completely taken with the spectacle of the trials and the diarist fears that she may, eventually, be accused by her own sister - more out of sibling rivalry and difficult family dynamics than anything else. When the two girls work out their differences, the elder sister realizes how close she came to falsely believing slander against her sister. An important point is made against being caught up in group-think and mass hysteria.

Obviously the subject matter is a bit touchy for very small children - parents will need to be ready to explain witchcraft and witchery as the Puritans understood it. And, of course, several people are executed in the course of these trials, and a small child will likely be deeply upset by the injustice and cruelty of those involved. I do not believe that children should be prevented from learning about this important stain on our history, just that this learning should take place in a nurturing environment where the parent can answer these hard questions.

~ Ana Mardoll

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