Review: Love Thy Neighbor

Love Thy Neighbor: The Tory Diary of Prudence Emerson, Greenmarsh, Massachusetts, 1774 (Dear America)Love Thy Neighbor
by Ann Turner

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Love Thy Neighbor / 0-439-15308-5

When I saw that "Love Thy Neighbor" was out of print, I was a little concerned that the writing quality might not be as high as usual for the Dear America series, but it seems that I need not have worried. Indeed, if there is a reason for the book being out of print now, I suspect it is because most Americans would prefer to hear about the Patriot side of the revolutionary war rather than the Tory side. But "Love Thy Neighbor" is less concerned with presenting the Tory case and more concerned with questioning whether friends and neighbors can't still get along, even in the face of major ideological differences.

Modern readers will probably be shocked and surprised to read about the open hostility that Prudence and her fictional Tory family suffer as tensions mount towards the American Revolutionary War. After all, most of us in recent memory can recall disagreeing with a family member or neighbor about, say, the current war in Iraq, without having to then worry that someone is going to drop by the house later that evening to pour hot tar over dad and roll him in feathers. And yet when Prudence and her family continue to be loyal to the king of England, this is precisely what they do fear will happen, even to the point of having to leave their family home to emigrate to a safer area.

Perhaps some of this fervor can be accredited to the fact that these people tended to be more personally affected by war - all or most of the men in the family would go off to fight and die, the livestock and farms would fall into disrepair, and lives would be disrupted for years to come. Something like that could explain why people took so personally, to a violent degree, these differences in loyalties and opinions. And yet, one could just as easily expect a stronger degree of sympathy, knowing that neighborly love might just be one of the few things that might endure this crisis - and, to be fair, a small number of the characters in this book do realize that. Prudence's mother continues to provide her skills as a midwife to most anyone who needs her; a young boy at school sticks up for the Tories because he detests unfairness.

In some ways, I think this novel could be considered one of the most important in the Dear America series, because it provides a unique and sympathetic outlook from the 'wrong' side - the side that would have preferred we remain a loyal colony of Britain. It is good to read a differing opinion from what we are commonly fed as children in the history books and to realize that even if we disagree, we can respect each other.

~ Ana Mardoll

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