In the early days of the Revolutionary War, Sara Bishop's Tory father is killed and their farmhouse burned by hoodlum Patriot Boys. Her brother, in the Patriot Army, dies a prisoner on the British ship Scorpion. Sara, 15, is arrested by the British, wrongly accused of setting the Trinity Church fire that breaks out when she is tracking down her brother in New York. She escapes, takes brief jobs in inn kitchens to stake her supplies, and then—still fleeing the British and desirous of solitude—sets up housekeeping in a "wilderness area" cave. At this point Sara has rejected the Bible that seems to have failed her, and is as determined to reject human help and company. A musket is her constant companion, and a white bat her pet. She has used the musket's threat to escape Sam Goshen, a man who gave her a wagon lift, then tried to rape her; and she uses it again when an Indian appears and claims that the cave area land is "mine." (In a reversal of the usual scene, Sara tries to explain that she doesn't claim the land but doesn't intend to move.) Later Sam Goshen turns up near her cave, caught in his own poisoned bear trap, and she reluctantly saves him, taking him into the cave until he is well enough to be shut out. Alone, she suffers from a poisonous snake bite and spends days on the edge of life. But a nice young Indian couple come by too, and help her to smoke fish and make a dugout canoe. Later, a young Quaker from whom she buys supplies takes an interest in her and invites her to Meeting. Her appearance in town lands her in prison again, this time for witchcraft; but the Quaker's reasoned persuasion saves her from trial and certain condemnation. In the end, Sara is back in her cave but has established the tentative contact that promises to win her back to society. O'Dell's affectless short sentences well suit Sara's numbed responses; however, without any heightening or variation, they make the story seem, after a while, to be taking Sara in and out of one dager after another. (There are so many.) It is, though, her own resourcefulness that gets her out each time; there is some small, undramatic progression in her withdrawal and incipient healing; and the adventure, historical background, survival mechanics, and inner condition are well integrated.
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