Set in 1776, against the backdrop of the American struggle for independence, this powerful novel is also an incredible adventure about one girl’s struggle for freedom in a society in which she is considered someone else’s property.
Isabel and her sister, Ruth, are slaves. Sold from one owner to the next, they arrive in New York as the Americans are fighting for their independence, and the English are struggling to maintain control. Soon Isabel is struggling too. Struggling to keep herself and her sister safe in a world in which they have no control.
Slavery of any kind is an issue I feel strongly about. In an ideal world, everyone lives free. In the past, slavery was openly found in every corner of the world. Children had little say in their lives. Slaves had no say. Isabel and her sister were such slaves. They weren't allowed to remain where they were, they went wherever the money took them. The money wasn't a protection, it was the key for people to use Isabel and Ruth.
Isabel has more worries than most older siblings. Little Ruth is epileptic. In those days, epilepsy was looked upon as demonic possession. Isabel tries to hide Ruth's nature, but she can't be there every moment of every day. She's ordered into spying on her new master, just because he isn't as loyal as he claims to be. That spying takes her outside the house were her invisible shackles chain her down, into a world which if she is discovered, heavy punishment will come her
Isabel's determination to care for Ruth, and to see through any task she believes in grows stronger throughout this first novel of the trilogy. The love she holds for Ruth means that she suffers, just so Ruth can escape notice. Thankfully not everyone is set against her - a few people show her more kindness than she'd ever hoped to receive. If only her life had been different then she could have stayed with those people. It is with that kindness, that she stumbles through the black hole in her heart when she is separated from Ruth by their evil mistress. It is a separation that Isabel is determined to set right, with her friend Curzon in tow.
I don't know how the story ends because this is a three book story. I know how the first part ends. There is a lot of hope for Isabel, but she's a wanted girl. Everyone will know she's a runaway. I'm sure she'll beat the adversities ahead of her, but I'm afraid for how much she'll have to suffer to reach happiness.
Laurie Halse Anderson can be found on her website, whose home page has me laughing away (it is the simple things in life which are funny).