Ann Turner,
Father of Lies
(HarperCollins, 2011)

Lidda and her family live just outside Salem Town when a small group of young women suddenly begin experiencing "fits," which many people in the town believe are the work of the devil. Soon, people are being accused of witchcraft and of consorting with Satan, and no one is safe from arrest and trial.

So, while Lidda firmly believes the girls are faking their fits and accusing others falsely, what should she make of the voice she keeps hearing in her head ... or the supernally beautiful man who appears in the shadows? What should she think about her own unnatural desires to sing and dance, to walk boldly and wear bright colors -- all at odds with the teachings of her church?

Ann Turner's book is set in a frightening time in American history, when being different or unpopular could earn you a rope on Gallow's Hill. Lidda's perspective provides keen insight into the events that occurred then -- she and her family are the only fictional characters in the novel, and Turner kept fairly close to the facts of the Salem Witch Trials. (Turner confesses to her slight changes in an afterword, when she also discusses bipolar disorder and how it might have related to the actions within.)

And, while the action is a little slow at times, the story itself is both entertaining and mysterious; not all questions posed by Turner's story will be answered by its end.

Father of Lies doesn't break new ground in the troubling subject of Salem, and Turner's narrative wanders afield a bit as it plods toward an inevitable conclusion. (This is based on historical events, after all, so don't expect Lidda to save the accused witches.) I'm not sure I follow all of Turner's connections, either; the bipolar tie, for instance, seems a little strained. But I enjoyed the book enough to read to the end, curious what would happen to Lidda in her very unusual -- and dangerous -- circumstances.

book review by
Tom Knapp

23 July 2011

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