I read this book back in February of 2013 and never reviewed it. A re-reading later…
Gib Martindale is confused – confused and curious. And he’s confused and curious about the same thing; the longstanding enmity between the wealthly Martindales and the Perrelys – a shiftless family that lives in the valley below the Martindales. The Martindales have been established in their town for years as upright and respectable, whereas the Perrelys and other valley folk have always been looked down upon. Why is that?
As Gib delves into this mystery, he befriends the Perrely children, Philander and Djulih. But they don’t seem to know the origins of their families’ quarrel anymore than he does! When Gib, then Philander, is accused of burning down the barn of a crotchety old miser, Orasmus Petit, Gib knows that he must settle the bad blood between their families. But how?
I really liked this story. It was clean, fun, and its protagonist, Gib, was unusual in both character and interests. He is respectful and, although he occasionally works around the authorities in his life, he always admits his faults and strives for what is right.
Probably much of what I liked about the story was due to the fact that it was set during the 1830s and the author wrote it in accordance with the spirit of the time. Rather than super-impose attitudes and themes from later centuries, he stuck with what would have been realistic for the 1830s. So, although Gib disagrees with his father’s treatment of the Perrelys, he doesn’t confront him in a blaze of anger. Instead, he waits until after both of them have sat through a sermon about loving their fellow man, and then asks the question “How can we better love our neighbours?” It is true that Gib visits the Perrelys in the valley without his father’s permission, but he admits these doings and does not attempt to hide from the consequences.
However, in the course of these deceptions, Gib learns valuable lessons – what it truly means to love one’s neighbor, the importance of a trustworthy reputation, and the freeing power of truth. By the end of the story, Gib’s respectful behavior has paid off – the Martindales and Perrelys are united in friendship, and justice has been reached concerning the destroyed barn.
The presence of Christianity is very real in this story – the local minister, Mr. Bownum, is a constant presence, and the Martindales attend church every Sunday. When court is being held, the judge invites Mr. Bownum to offer a prayer to God before the trial begins.
One of the Martindales’ servants accuses one of the Perrelys of being a witch – Gib counters this as being patently foolish. A few situations are described as being “like magic”, but real magic is not intimated.
Conclusion. A great story and a fun mystery.
Review © 2014 Laura Verret