cover image The Ransom of Mercy Carter

The Ransom of Mercy Carter

Caroline B. Cooney. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32615-5

Based on actual events, this latest offering from the accomplished Cooney (The Face on the Milk Carton; Driver's Ed) is a gripping and thought-provoking account of the 1704 Indian raid on the English settlement of Deerfield, Mass. After their village is burned and many of its residents killed, Mercy and more than 100 other settlers are taken prisoner by the Kahnawake Mohawk, who have been converted to Catholicism by the French. Some of the novel's most riveting chapters describe the difficult winter trek that takes them 300 miles north to Canada, where Mercy settles into life in a traditional Indian village near Montreal. Uncertain whether she will be adopted by the Mohawk who captured her or whether the English will pay the ransom that would allow her to return to Massachusetts, Mercy struggles to balance loyalty to her own family and traditions with a growing appreciation for the Kahnawake way of life. Just how much her perspective broadens can be measured by the fact that, in addition to adopting many Indian ways, Mercy can find something sacred and comforting in the Catholic mass a rite she was raised to believe led straight to eternal damnation. Portrayed mostly as rigid, angry and dogmatic, the Puritans contrast poorly with the generally kind and commonsensical Indians, and Mercy's final choice is thus compelling. Though at times this account reads like the MTV version of the events (e.g., glancing over such important events as the death of Mercy's Indian father), the immediacy of Mercy's dilemma comes through despite its historical distance. Cooney's trademark staccato delivery keeps the pages turning. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)