THE GIFT OF SARAH BARKER by Jane Yolen

THE GIFT OF SARAH BARKER

KIRKUS REVIEW

A predictable novel about two young people raised as Shakers and their inner struggles in breaking away from that strict, celibate life. Sarah is first seen sneaking off to welcome spring on a hilltop, thus establishing her relatively unfettered nature. Later Abel finds the shoes and stockings she has left behind and returns them indirectly, careful not to touch the female garments but attracted to this flushed young girl with her unruly red curls. There are whispered exchanges plus one secret night-time conversation--very proper by most standards but not by the Shakers'--before the two are exposed and sentenced to exile in a melodramatic climax that begins with an unlikely confession from Sarah's rejecting mother, Sister Agatha, and ends with Sister Agatha's suicide. Yolen conveys the community's repressive atmosphere and extensive thought-control in a stiff, prim style that's as leaden as their imposed serenity. For balance, she shows us some Shaker dances and ecstatic celebrations (but without much change in her sober style); and her community includes joyful singers and a compassionate woman leader as well as petty conformists, the unforgiving, self-righteous prig who's the male leader, and the self-punishing Sister Agatha--but the range is as stereotypical as the individual responses.
Pub Date: May 11th, 1981
ISBN: 0140360271
Page count: 155pp
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1981




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