by Julie Berry
First sentence: “We came here by ship, you and I.”
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Review copy pilfered off the ARC shelves at work.
Two girls go missing. One turns up dead, floating in the stream. Two years later, the other one returns to the small town, intact, but with her tongue cut out. The villagers — from the preacher to her own mother — call her cursed, and shun her.
I’ve tried to sum up what goes on in the rest of the book, but I’ve found that I don’t really want to give too much away. Because much of the pleasure I got from reading this (in one sitting!) was not knowing that much about it. I will tell you this: at first, I thought it was a fantasy setting, because I think that’s what I was expecting. It’s not. Even though it’s not explicitly stated, it’s a Puritan setting, somewhere on the east coast. And the religion and mores that those communities set out play a major role in the book. And, even though it’s a story about kidnapping and murder, and you fear the worst for Judith, I will tell you that, as the story unfolds, it’s not the worst. It’s bad, but it’s not as bad as it gets.
The meat of the story is Judith — she’s the girl that returns — and her road to healing. For, in spite of everything that the village (and her mother) heaps on her, she does need to heal. It’s this process that is the true story. How Judith salvages her life from her trauma and reclaims her own sense of self. How she finds friends in the face of all the opposition in the town. How she even finds love. It’s a testament to the power of truth, to the power of the human spirit.