THE SHAKERESS

Kimberley Heuston
Kimberley Heuston . Front Street $16.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-886910-56-0
Reviewed on: 04/01/2002
Release date: 00/00/0000

Despite its fascinating views of Shakers and other religious movements in the 1820s and '30s, this often intriguing first novel about a young woman's spiritual journey never quite kindles an emotional response. As the novel opens, 13-year-old Naomi's parents and baby brother have been killed in a fire, and she and her three younger siblings have been taken in by their intolerant, Bible-thumping aunt. Told she will be sent to work in a mill, Naomi runs away with her siblings to a Shaker community, known for welcoming orphans ("It was the right thing to do. She just knew it"). After a few years with the Shakers, Naomi's sister is sure she belongs to "the Community," but Naomi, now a gifted healer, hears a voice inside, saying, "It's time for you to go." The questions with which Naomi struggles as she tries to figure out how to become "the woman God meant [her] to be" are compelling, but the way she resolves them—via personal communication with God—is not. Her eventual decision to be baptized as a Mormon isn't presented in a way to involve readers. In the end, character development takes a backseat to protestations of faith and to cultural history. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)

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