TINKY’S BOOK REVIEW: ‘Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl’ offers lots of information


Friday, December 29, 2017

“Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl” by John Demos (Abrams/Amulet Books), 176 pages, $16.99)

Many Franklin County residents have visited Historic Deerfield and have some knowledge of the 1704 Raid on Deerfield. On Feb. 29 of that year, about 300 French soldiers and Native Americans attacked the settlement there.

Many Deerfield residents — 112 men, women and children — were taken by the Native Americans on a forced march to Canada, a trek that would not have been easy even in warmer weather.

Famous among the Deerfield captives were the members of the Williams family. John Williams, Deerfield’s minister and most prominent resident, began the journey north with his wife and children. The wife, recovering from childbirth, was too weak to march and was executed along the way.

Williams and his children were separated and taken to different parts of Canada. Eventually, the minister and his sons were ransomed and returned to New England.

His 7-year-old daughter Eunice was adopted by a Mohawk family and assimilated to her new life. Her story was well-known in New England, thanks to her father’s fame.

Historian John Demos has fictionalized Eunice’s story in his new book, “Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl.” The novel is aimed at readers between the ages of 8 and 12, but should interest just about any young person.

Demos begins his story with a preface that sets up the basic conflicts between European powers in the New World and between settlers and Native Americans.

This part of the book sounds a bit as though he is talking down to the reader, although his style may be necessary; it certainly conveys a lot of information in a few pages.

The remainder of the book, in which young Eunice literally and figuratively moves from her Puritan life to her Mohawk one, is lively, informative, and moving.

Demos has clearly studied both American and Native-American history. He shows Eunice, who is eventually given new names by her Mohawk family, pursuing typical activities of young girls in both her homes.

In her Puritan life, she helps her mother prepare meals and churn butter. She also learns to sew and spends the requisite amount of time in church and prayer.

In her Mohawk life, she learns the belief system of her new family, which oddly co-exists with the teachings of nearby French Catholic priests. She is trained to plant and harvest. When she becomes a teenager, she participates in a winter hunt for meat to tide her village over until spring.

Through all these activities, she navigates between her two identities. Demos reveals that although the real Eunice refused to return to Massachusetts to live, she visited her siblings as an adult.

The author’s fictionalization of this dramatic life illuminates Eunice’s two cultures. His book demonstrates both historical knowledge and empathy.

Signed copies of “Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl” are available at Historic Deerfield’s Museum Gift Shop and Bookstore.

Tinky Weisblat is the author of “The Pudding Hollow Cookbook,” “Pulling Taffy,” and the forthcoming
“Love, Laughter, and Rhubarb.” Visit her website, www.TinkyCooks.com.