Merrimon Book Reviews

Samuel Parris

Puritan minister in Salem Village during the Salem witch trials
 (original in the collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society)

Deposition of Mary Walcott, August 3, 1692

The parsonage in Salem Village, as photographed in the late 19th century

From Medieval Book Reviews
Father of Lies
Father of Lies by Ann Turner
by Ann Turner


What would it be like to live as a fourteen year old girl in Salem Village in 1692?  

Restrained in the color of one's wardrobe, in activities, and in all things, how would a free spirit see the town?  In all things, women's lives are ruled by their fathers and by the influence of the town's minister, a reverend energetically concerned with rooting out the sinister, evil presence of the devil.  When afflictions affect three girls in the village, suddenly the town turns in on itself.  Accusations of witchcraft are leveled against those who are familiar.  Fourteen year old Lidda sees visions of a man Lucian.  Is he the devil?  With the town in such a frenzy, how can she possibly tell anyone of her visions?  Lidda chafes against the rules of Puritan society.  Can she speak out for the truth without risking her life?

FATHER OF LIES describes the events of the Salem witch trials through the eyes of an adolescent girl who challenges the prevailing social mores with her desire for freedom and her ability to question the prevailing assumptions of her peers and the adults as well.  Throughout the narrative, Ann Tuner maintains a sense of mystery.  Who is Lucian?  Is Lidda too affected by the same afflictions as the other girls?  Ann Turner does not resolve these questions, but rather leaves the questions for the reader to interpolate from the narrative itself.  At the end, the author talks about bipolar disorder but the narrative itself nor the subsequent analysis does not deflate the mystery.  Rather than reducing the Salem witch trails into a simplistic explanation, the author takes the reader into the narrator's vision.  For modern readers, FATHER OF LIES is a story of a young woman who stands up for what is right even in the midst of her own confusion.  Lidda has a core or moral compass which cannot be shaken by those around her or by what is within her.  FATHER OF LIES recounts this historical period through a unique lens, a lens which makes a reader feel that they themselves are present.   While I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I could not help but wish the book had been a bit longer.  Ann Turner does an excellent job at taking a reader into the scene with a character's whose perspective is quite unique.  As soon as I felt immersed in that world and connected with the narrator, the story ended.  

FATHER OF LIES is recommended
for readers, young adult and adult, who have an interest in this historical period.  The author combines historical research and fictional imagination to make a reader see the history through fresh eyes. 

Publisher: Harper Teen (February 28,  2011)
Author website

Reviewed by Merrimon, Merrimon Book Reviews
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