Title: Sarah BishopSarah Bishop
Author: Scott O’Dell
Pages: 230
Reading Level: 10 – 14
Star Rating: ★★

From the author of Sing Down the Moon and Island of the Blue Dolphins comes a story from the American War for Independence

The Story.

Sarah Bishop’s father is a Tory. He believes that King George is the rightful ruler of the American colonies. Sarah is neither Tory nor Patriot – she just wants to live and knows that danger is imminent for those in the colonies who remain loyal to the King.

And then, her brother Chad signs up with the patriots. He plans to fight the very King her father loves so dearly. Things only get worse from then – a band of marauders sets fire to their house and barn and tar and feather her father. Within hours he dies.

When she learns that her brother too is dead, Sarah becomes hardened. She is sick of this war, sick of the pitying people, sick of everything. She just wants to escape from it all. So, she flees to the woods, and makes a home for herself in a cave there. But will she be safe? And will she ever return to civilization?

Discussion.

Sarah Bishop really is an interesting story. We often (especially here in America) only read stories in which Patriots are the protagonists, forgetting that a third of those living in the American colonies supported the King of England’s claims. And in this story we learn of the hardships attendant on those who remained loyal.

After her father and brother die, Sarah flees to the woods. Along the way, a man offers her a ride on his wagon, which she accepts. It isn’t until she is dismounting that she realizes that his intentions were not generous as she supposed. He pins her against the wagon and begins fumbling with her bodice, but she is able to maneuver away from him and cover him with a gun. While buying supplies, she lies about her name and destination in order to maintain the secrecy of her getaway.

Before he died, Sarah’s father read to her from the Bible and was a great admirer of William Tyndale, 15th century translator of the Bible. After her father’s death, Sarah is bitter that his God did not protect him, and rips out the page which commands her to love her enemies. She brings the Bible along with her on her escape.

Later, the same man who tried to rape her turns up near her cave with a broken leg. Although he is none of her concern and she would much rather see him dead than alive, Sarah takes him in and nurses him. While he is recovering, she begins to read out of the Bible, first to herself, then out loud to him.

Later, on one of her visits to town to get food, she meets a Quaker who invites him to attend their meetings. About this time, rumors start that a local drought is being caused by a witch. Sarah attends one of the meetings and is thereupon accused of being the witch. She is persecuted and tried, but released after her main accuser’s son speaks out on her behalf. When he learns that she has torn out the Sermon on the Mount from her Bible, he tears his own page out and gives it to her, making her promise to read it and return to more meetings. She agrees and the book ends. So much for established religion.

At the beginning of the story, Sarah mentions Mrs. Ryder, a woman believed by some in the community to be a witch. She tells a story which we seem to indicate that she has some magical power.

‘H—’ is used once. (fully spelled)

Conclusion. A complicated story. I’m not sure that the benefits really outweighed the negatives.

Review © 2013 Laura Verret

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