STEAL AWAY by Jennifer Armstrong


Age Range: 11 - 15
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 ``My heart was going in sixteen different directions. But my body was going North.'' In this subtle, powerful novel, Susannah, a teenage orphan reluctantly transplanted from Vermont to Virginia, and Bethlehem, the slave assigned to her, decide to escape together. The two young women, who alternate as narrators, have very different points of view: to Susannah, teaching her slave to read is merely a project; in leaving her stern uncle's farm, she runs only the risk of being brought back. For Bethlehem, both the reading and the running are deadly dangerous--but the potential rewards are beyond price. Working together despite the gulf between them (after they watch a battered group of stolen slaves shuffle past, Bethlehem reacts fiercely: ``You don't know,'' she says through tears, ``you can't ever know''), the two forge a bond that lasts even after they go their separate ways, one to a comfortable life in Vermont, the other to a teaching career in Toronto. Decades later, they are reunited in Bethlehem's slum apartment, where she is on her deathbed, and tell their story to two young counterparts: Susannah's naive granddaughter, and Bethlehem's angry nurse. In the telling, the strong cast reacts and interacts in complex ways, each forced to consider new ideas and reexamine memories and preconceptions. A distinctive tale of courage and sacrifice, with no glib lessons or easy resolutions but a memorable portrait of a soul for whom freedom is the greatest prize. (Fiction. 11-15)

Pub Date: March 1st, 1992
ISBN: 0-531-05983-9
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Orchard
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 1992


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