Historical Novels: Susannah Morrow

by Meghan Chance

♦♦♦♦ out of ♦♦♦♦♦

I’ve always been fascinated with the Salem Witch Trials, and sometimes I wonder what life must have been like for those living in Salem village in 1692. From the modern standpoint, it can be difficult to accept that these people could have been so easily swept away by what is now viewed as mass hysteria and rampant superstition. To me the value of books like Susannah Morrow is that they examine the impact of such unbelievable episodes on the lives of a few ordinary people. Chance’s approach, to tell aspects of the story from the perspective of 3 members of one family, provides insight into how what happened could happen. Charity, the first narrator, has just suffered the loss of her mother and is struggling with grief and her own emerging sexuality. Her conflicts are those of the adolescent. Lucas is also struggling with his wife’s death and the allure of his newly arrived sister-in-law, Susannah, who is surrounded by an aura of mystery and who possesses the warmth of spirit that so frightened the Puritans. He is a man who recognizes his own sexual needs but views them as sinful. Finally, Susannah herself, a freer thinker who badly wants to embrace her new family but can’t manage to crack that Puritan shell surrounding them.
Loss is the central theme of this novel. Loss of loved ones, loss of one’s own spirit, loss of personal and community control, loss of logic and reason and trust. Susannah Morrow helps the modern reader to suspend the 21st century mindset and view life from the perspective of those living in a wild, poorly understood environment both natural and of their own making. This is no historical romance, but a nice piece of historical fiction.

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