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Monday, March 07, 2011

Father of Lies: In Salem, Massachusetts, Being Different Can Be Deadly ...

(Image from Indiebound)

Unlike all the other girls in Salem, Massachusetts, 14-year-old Lidda can't stand the thought of spending her whole life trapped at home caring for a husband and children. Her own mother can barely stay awake, so exhausted is she by the requirements of her household. Lidda longs for something more. Her traitorous soul craves frivolous things, forbidden things. Dancing in the sunshine, wearing bold colors, singing out loud - anything but the daily torture of quiet, pious living demanded of her by her religion, her community and her family.

Lidda knows she's different, but when she starts seeing a handsome, otherworldly figure sitting in her room, she wonders if she might be crazy. When she hears his voice in her head, urging her to rip off her stays and run wild, she knows he's dangerous. When he laughs at her obedience, mocks her prayers, and encourages her flights of fancy, she wonders if he may, in fact, be the Devil. Others in town seem possessed by evil, why not she?

When other girls in Salem began convulsing on the floor, claiming to be cursed by witches, Lidda wonders about her impairment. It's not like the plague coursing through her friends, giving them power so great, it frightens Lidda. Plus, the evil in her seems real, while the witch-possessing looks a lot like play-acting. She longs to accuse these accusers, who send innocent people to their doom without a prick of conscience, but if she dares cross the girls, won't she be just as vulnerable as the girls' other victims? Especially since she really is possessed by the Devil? Someone has to stop the madness overtaking Salem. Does Lidda dare confess what she knows, even if the telling the truth could mean swinging from the gallows herself?

In Father of Lies, a new historical novel for teens by Ann Turner, the author expresses the same idea that drives Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill: namely, that the young Salem girls who accused so many of witchcraft did so knowing full well that their insinuations were untrue. Perhaps it was out of boredom, or a desire for power in a society where little girls had none, or simply part of the religious fanaticism rampant in the area at the time. Whatever it was, the results of their tantrums are grim -

"... one hundred fifty women had been accused and thrown in jail ...; nineteen men and women had been hanged; one elderly man, Giles Corey, had been pressed to death by stones; several people had died in jail, two dogs were hanged for associating with witches; and one little girl, Dorcas Good, went mad while confined in irons with her mother in jail" (244-245).

Although I found Turner's story interesting, it didn't give me any really new information about the Salem Witch Trials, especially considering the recent publication of the very evocative Wicked Girls. The one thing that stands out here, though, is the idea of a young girl trying to understand her mental condition in a time when things like bi-polar disorder were not only misunderstood, but seen as curses from God or Satan. As Lidda grapples to understand herself, the reader is forced to ask the question - Is the specter haunting Lidda simply a byproduct of her disease or something far more sinister? The conundrum gives needed depth and originality to an otherwise familiar tale. It wasn't, however, enough to make Father of Lies more than just an average, okay, read for me. Oh well.
(Readalikes: Wicked Girls by Stephanie Hemphill - see review and author links above)

Grade: C

If this were a movie, it would be rated: PG for frightening images

To the FTC, with love: I received a finished copy of Father of Lies from the generous folks at Harper Teen. Thank you!


  1. Thank you for following Read.Chat.Love! Make sure you swing by on March 10th at 7:00 PM EST for a chat with debut author Jennifer L. Armentrout! We will be doing trivia and giving away swag!

    Hope to see you there!!!

  2. I've seen alot of people get this in their IMM posts, but no reviews yet! This story sounds very original! Love the cover too!

    I also have to check out Everlost - it looks great!

    New follower glad I found your blog!

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com


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