Chains. Laurie Halse Anderson. 2008. Simon & Schuster. 320 pages.
The best time to talk to ghosts is just before the sun comes up. That's when they can hear us true, Momma said. That's when ghosts can answer us. The eastern sky was peach colored, but a handful of lazy stars still blinked in the west. It was almost time.
When the novel opens, Isabel, our heroine, is seeking help from her (dead) mother one last time. But it's to no avail, her mother's ghost does not answer her pleas, can provide no further guidance to her two daughters, Isabel and Ruth.
Their mistress has died. Isabel knows that her mistress freed her and her sister before she died; it's in her will. But her mistress's nephew--Mr. Robert Finch--as her only living relative refuses to believe that consulting a will is even necessary. Naturally, all her aunt's property is his. And since Isabel and Ruth are nothing but property, they are his by right. The fact that there's a will, a lawyer, who could say otherwise? Irrelevant. Mr. Robert sells both girls at the first opportunity. Their buyer? The Locktons of New York. Isabel is even given a new name. One that is "easy" to remember. Sal. But Isabel can never be comfortable wearing a new name, being the property of someone else. Isabel dreams of so much more. She dreams of freedom. What keeps her from acting on impulse? Of running away? Her sister, Ruth. But the actions of a cruel mistress--selling her younger sister--means that Isabel has nothing left to lose. Will Isabel believe the British who are promising freedom to some slaves? Or will Isabel believe the Patriots who claim the same thing--freedom to slaves who help their side.
A nation at war. A young country seeking freedom, justice, liberty. Set in New York City during circa 1776-1777, the story is vibrant and heartbreaking. It's a story rich in detail and emotional and powerful in nature. Isobel's story--her struggles--resonates so deeply that I think this one is a must-read.
I first reviewed Chains in November of 2008. I reread it so I'd be ready for the release of the sequel, Forge.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews