Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Messenger by Siri Mitchell: A Revolutionary Tale of Courage and Independence


Raised a Quaker, Hannah Sunderland has always found life quiet and calm, much like the 
Friends Meetings she attends each Sabbath.  Then everything changedsas Boston becomes a hot bed of Revolutionary discontent and British troops occupy the city.  First, Hannah's twin brother s to join the patriots; his choice to fight makes him an outcast in his own family and faith.  But how can Hannah so completely shun her own twin?  When a British officer commandeers the Sunderland home as his own quarters, the family flees to relatives who are not Quakers.  Within these walls and its constant bustle of two families, social visitors, and a household of servants, Hannah is able to escape away and make arrangements to visit her brother who is now in a British prison on Boston soil.  

It is this decision to see her brother that brings about a most unlikely partnership between Hannah and Jeremiah Jones, a local tavern keeper who holds deep bitterness and grudges against the British, having been left for dead when he served with them against the Indians.  Now at the center of a colonial spy ring, Jeremiah finds he needs the assistance of young innocent Hannah. How can a gentle woman, raised to be anything but completely honest, undertake a mission of subterfuge and possible lies?

Mitchell succeeded at recreating an occupied Boston, a city split by deeply felt allegiances and crippled by boycotts and military siege.  Clearly there were divisions within families as devastating as those felt later during the Civil War. Those like the Quakers who refused to choose sides or to participate in violence were criticized by all.  To add another layer of depth to the story, as Hannah makes most of her trips to the prison, she is accompanied by a young slave girl belonging to Hannah's non-Quaker uncle.  Being a Quaker, Hannah is appalled at this situation and willingly offers to help the girl escape along with the prisoners and does not understand the girl's reasons to keep living the only life she knows.

I borrowed this book from WPLC for my Nook.  I enjoy historical fiction and this story, along with Washington's Lady, has added some humanity to my understanding of the Revolutionary
War times.  I did find the story a little slow at times which makes it difficult to judge how much others will like it.  If you have read other stories by Siri Mitchell, then definitely try this one.







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