THE SHAKERESS by Kimberley Heuston

THE SHAKERESS

Age Range: 12 - 15
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An unusual coming-of-age novel, both for its subject and its focus. Naomi and her three siblings are living with her Aunt Thankful in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in 1828. Their parents and her youngest brother perished in a fire, and her aunt’s pinched ways and threat to break up the family lead Naomi bravely to Canterbury, New Hampshire. There, as she hoped, the Shaker community takes the children in. They are separated by gender, but Naomi rejoices not only as her brothers and sister thrive under the Shaker way, learning and doing, but also as she strives to find her own place. She learns herbal medicine, even as her mother had, but decides to leave the community to seek more. She finds a place in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, staying with a family and working as healer and herbalist. She even falls in love. But she is still searching, and eventually finds answers in the preaching of those who speak of a Joseph Smith and what he heard from God in founding the Mormon faith. What is noteworthy about this story is the intensity with which it treats spiritual questions: the place of prayer; the path to faith; the meaning and mystery of the divine. Along with trying to find out what she wants to be when she grows up and whom she will love, Naomi longs for spiritual nourishment in a direct and unaffected way. There’s no question that there is some proselytizing here, and the plot is sometimes overly complex. There’s some awkward language, although it is well written for the most part. It treats two less-well-known religions, but its strength is in its recognition of the spiritual quest. Engaging as historical fiction and for the honest way it approaches belief. (Fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 30th, 2002
ISBN: 1-886910-56-1
Page count: 216pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2002




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