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The Ransom of Mercy Carter

The Ransom of Mercy Carter

4.2 21
by Caroline B. Cooney

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Deerfield, Massachusetts is one of the most remote, and therefore dangerous, settlements in the English colonies. In 1704 an Indian tribe attacks the town, and Mercy Carter becomes separated from the rest of her family, some of whom do not survive. Mercy and hundreds of other settlers are herded together and ordered by the Indians to start walking. The grueling


Deerfield, Massachusetts is one of the most remote, and therefore dangerous, settlements in the English colonies. In 1704 an Indian tribe attacks the town, and Mercy Carter becomes separated from the rest of her family, some of whom do not survive. Mercy and hundreds of other settlers are herded together and ordered by the Indians to start walking. The grueling journey — three hundred miles north to a Kahnawake Indian village in Canada — takes more than 40 days. At first Mercy's only hope is that the English government in Boston will send ransom for her and the other white settlers. But days turn into months and Mercy, who has become a Kahnawake daughter, thinks less and less of ransom, of Deerfield, and even of her "English" family. She slowly discovers that the "savages" have traditions and family life that soon become her own, and Mercy begins to wonder: If ransom comes, will she take it?

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The drama of history unfolds in this gripping tale.” — School Library Journal

"Cooney’s trademark staccato delivery keeps the pages turning.” — Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly
PW called this novel based on an actual 1704 Indian raid on the English settlement of Deerfield, Mass., "gripping and thought-provoking." Ages 12-up. (Nov.)
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Mercy Carter has seen her family attacked by the Mohawk Indians. She is now a captive after having been marched through hundreds of miles of cold, snowy wilderness. Her stepmother did not survive this arduous journey. Her brothers and sisters have all been separated from her. She has an Indian name, Munnonock, and is rapidly beginning to understand, as well as speak, the language of the Mohawks. Mercy should feel bitter, but the only treatment she receives from these "savages" is kindness. Her captor Tannhahorens and his wife have adopted her. Mercy thinks about the possibility of escape, but even when she does try, she realizes that her heart will not let her part from these people who have become her family. There are numerous stories of Indians capturing settlers. Cooney has done considerable research into the period, the languages, customs and events for this book, which is loosely based on a true story. While there is much emphasis on the savagery the settlers experienced from the Indians, Cooney brings out the Indians' side also as she builds around this story of an 11-year-old white girl's experiences. She does not, however, touch on the situations in which the Indians were brutalized by the whites. These events take place during the French and Indian wars when the French were enlisting the aid of the Indians as they attempted to acquire territory in America. Cooney's interpretation offers a great story about a young girl who learns to adapt and survive. Mercy is the kind of heroine teens will enjoy. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2001, Random House, Dell, Laurel Leaf, 249p., Tibbetts
In February 1704, a band of Mohawk Indians and their French allies attacked the frontier village of Deerfield, Massachusetts. Many settlers were killed in the raid, others escaped, and more than one hundred were taken captive, including the Puritan minister, his family, and an eleven-year-old girl named Mercy Carter. The captives were led on a rigorous three-hundred-mile march to Canada, and several died during the ordeal. Although many were ransomed and eventually returned to the English colonies, others chose to remain with their Indian captors. Based on the Deerfield event, this novel follows the time of the attack. Mercy's story showcases the collision of English, French, and Indian cultures in eighteenth-century America. She survives the long winter march but loses contact with her brothers, who are moved elsewhere after their mother and sisters are killed. Mercy is given the Indian name Munnonock and taken to the Mohawk village of Kahnawake on the St. Lawrence River to live with the family of her Indian abductor, Tannhahoren. Torn between two cultures, she wrestles with the memories of her past and the realities of her present as a Puritan girl among Catholic Indians. Slowly adjusting to her new life, she learns the values of different cultures and ultimately refuses ransom when it is offered. Cooney has written a descriptive historical novel that captures the events vividly. Her portrayal of Mercy's emotional torment and the realities of Indian existence should ensure that this work appeals to both male and female readers. It also could be used easily in courses on colonial American history. VOYA CODES: 4Q 3P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Willappeal with pushing; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2001, Delacorte, 249p, . Ages 12 to 18. Reviewer: Vicky Yablonsky SOURCE: VOYA, April 2001 (Vol. 24, No.1)
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-The drama of history unfolds in this gripping tale based on the actual destruction of Deerfield, MA, in February, 1704. In a surprise attack, Mohawk Indians entered the town, burned it, and took captives with them on a 300-mile march to Canada. This is 11-year-old Mercy Carter's story. Accustomed to caring for her younger siblings, she becomes the mother figure for several of the children on the long and harsh journey. Although she waits to be ransomed, when the opportunity arises more than a year after her capture, she refuses to go back. Cooney artfully combines the intense drama of the situation with historical details of the period and the Indian culture. The conflict between the English Puritans from Deerfield and the French Catholics is also well depicted. However, although Mercy is an intriguing, feisty girl, her maturity is often unrealistic. She never panics; she always thinks ahead and projects the outcome of her actions. Cooney carefully draws her other characters to show myriad reactions to the capture, including the rebellious Ruth and others who are too devastated by their losses to care about what happens to them. It is unfortunate that only cursory mention is made of the Indians' underlying plight against the invading white man that led to such horrifying attacks. Still, there is a great deal in this engrossing tale to recommend it.-Renee Steinberg, Fieldstone Middle School, Montvale, NJ Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range:
12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Deerfield, Massachusetts

February 28, 1704

Temperature 10 degrees below zero

Dear Lord, prayed Mercy Carter, do not let us be murdered in our beds tonight.

Mercy tucked her brothers in, packing them close. Or any night, she told the Lord, shifting her weight from foot to foot. Even though she wore both pairs of stockings to bed, the cold of the floor came through the heavy wool. It was the coldest night she could remember during a winter when every night had been colder than it ought to be.  Downstairs, where the fire was blazing, one of the soldiers had tried to write a letter to Boston and his ink had frozen.

She kissed each brother good night. The boys were wearing most of their clothes, which made them fat and funny under the quilts. She dreaded getting into her own bed, because she slept alone, and only body heat could keep anyone warm tonight.

Before she shuttered and barred the window, Mercy knelt to look out. In spite of twenty soldiers quartered in the village and every Deerfield man armed and at the ready, Mercy could never fall asleep until she herself checked the horizon.

Just below the window was the vegetable garden, covered now in three feet of snow. Against the barn, which sheltered one cow, two sheep and a pig, were drifts taller than Mercy, crusted over from freezing rain. Out beyond the stockade, icy fields gleamed like lakes in the starlight.

None of the children had been allowed out of the stockade since October. This winter a hen in the yard was not safe from an arrow, or a child from a bullet. Surrounded by thousands of square miles of wilderness—and they were 4 trapped in ten crowded acres.

Aunt Mary and Uncle Nathaniel and their two children, too afraid of Indian attack to stay on their farm, had been sleeping on the floor downstairs since the governor had first warned of possible attacks.

Four rooms. Seventeen people. Week after frigid week.

It was amazing that the three hundred citizens of Deerfield were not killing each other instead of waiting for the Indians to do it.

Lord, she wished her father were home. He had ridden down to Springfield to buy molasses and tobacco. Without Father, the house felt weak and open, even with soldiers sleeping downstairs. Even with Uncle Nathaniel.

Indians sneak up, Mercy reminded herself. Nobody can sneak across such crusty ice. We'd hear their feet crunching a mile away. Father said so.

Except that when the Indians had come last October, there'd been no sound. Mercy had been the only witness, leaning out this very window.

October in Massachusetts was crimson berries and orange pumpkins, tawny grass and bright red sumac. The colors called to Mercy like bugles; like battle cries. She had unpinned her hair to let the wind catch it and pretended to be the figurehead of a ship, although she had never seen the sea, or even a lake.

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills!" she told the horizon. She loved this psalm. "From whence cometh my help."

Swinging so far out the window that her fingertips barely held her safe, Mercy had spotted Zeb and John heading toward Frary's Bridge to bring in the cows. The tall grass around their thighs made them swim in dusty gold. Mercy's hair was the same color, like wheat in the sun, and she was admiring her own thick yellow hair when out of the grass appeared Indians, as natural as wildflowers. Before Mercy could choke back her psalm, they had encircled Zeb and John.

One shot was fired, one dash stopped, two surrenders made.

Zeb and John and the Indians vanished over a rise and out of Deerfield forever.

The boys had known better than to fight. Fighting meant a tomahawk to the head. Surrender meant a chance to live.

And Mercy had known better than to sound the alarm. Taking the boys was bait. The English would do anything to save one another. All the Indians needed to do was capture one white and the rest of the English would come running to the rescue.

Ambush was the Indian form of battle. They did not like casualties. It was not their plan that they should die; only whites. So if Mercy were to scream, the sentries would mount up and the whole village rush in pursuit. But the English would find their horses shot from beneath them, and where only Zeb and John had been lost, now twenty might die.

So Mercy had stayed silent.

The grass closed in, the captives were gone, and the world went on, full of color and glory.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help? Mercy thought. Maybe in Israel, in the days of King David, the Lord sent help from the hills. But Massachusetts? Help does not come from our hills, Lord. Only Indians.

Mercy had shaken her fist at the Lord. How could you let those savages take Zeb and John? Why aren't You on our side? You sent us here! Take care of us!

Five months ago, and Mercy still trembled when she remembered her rage at the Lord God. It was the kind of thing that turned the Lord against Deerfield. Every sermon Mr. Williams had given this winter dealt with sin. The Lord had no choice, said Mr. Williams. Deerfield must suffer. Mercy had done her part to anger the Lord and she knew it.

Mercy pulled the shutter across the window, fastened it with the wooden bar and climbed into her freezing bed to consider her sins.

She had woven five yards of cloth today, but the Lord would not care about that. He would care that she harbored evil thoughts toward all three brides in Deerfield.

She was envious of Sally, who had gotten a perfect husband in Benjamin Burt. Horrified by Eliza, who had married an Indian, even if Andrew was a Praying Indian. Sickened by Abigail, whose choice was a French fur trader twenty years older than she was. How could Abigail marry a Frenchman? The French were the enemy. The English were at war with the French!

Meet the Author

Caroline B. Cooney is the author of The Face on the Milk Carton, and its companions, Whatever Happened to Janie?, The Voice on the Radio, and What Janie Found, as well as many other acclaimed novels.

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Ransom of Mercy Carter 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Once I picked this book up, I couldn't put it down. The plot-line was very interesting, and you really do feel as if you are in the situations that happen in the book. The characters were very believable and easy to relate to. I only wish she would have continued the book until Mercy got older, so we could have had a little romance in the book. Besides that, the book was quite spectacular.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent book - not just for teens.  My only concern with it is that the book can distort the edges between fiction and history since real people were used as fictional characters.  However, I had a better appreciation for the plight of the captives from reading this book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love history. Creative fiction inspires me to write my own stories. X3 Seriously, Anime4everXD aka. Flighty
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just love this book! Once I picked it up, I could not stop! The author is really good about making you feel that you are Marcy Carter. I would reccommend this book to everyone who would like something exellant to read. There is only one other thing that would make this book better....and that would be a sequel!
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
While this book is geared towards younger people anyone can enjoy it. I first read it in middle school and it is still one of my most beloved and memorable books.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
this book is historically accurate and very entertaining. i couldn't put it down. i loved how the author took the real people who lived in that time and wove them into the story.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Ransom of Mercy Carter by Caroline B. Cooney is an amazing book. It kept me going all the way through. This book was very interesting and taught me a lot. It was amazing to see how many lived during 1700's, and to see how it must have been for the white settlers and the Native Americans. I learned a lot and I loved the book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is probably the best book that i have ever read. You really get in to the plot and you think to yourself what would i do in that situation? The author really gets across to you that the Indians were not bad people and that they are human as well. I could not put this book down. I think that everybody should read it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. It really gave you an idea of what it was like to live in the French and Indian War. Mercy is stolen by indians and has to walk three-hundred miles to Canada from her home town. She lives with Indians and even becomes one herself. But if her ransom comes? What will she do then?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Eleven-year-old Mercy Carter lives with her family in Deerfield, Massachusetts, the most remote settlement in the English colonies in 1704. Although life in Deerfield is both difficult and dangerous, with countless chores for even the youngest child and the constant threat of Indian attacks, Mercy takes comfort in her family and her faith. But even her prayers are not enough to save many settlers from brutal deaths at the hands of the Indians, and they aren't enough to save Mercy, who is among the survivors, from capture. Forced to march three hundred miles north to the Indian village in Canada through the brutal winter cold is almost more than Mercy can bear, and many do not survive the journey. Once she arrives in Canada, she finds herself a servant, and her only comfort lies in her faith, her prayers, and the faint hope that she will be ransomed and reunited with the surviving members of her family. Yet as time goes by, Mercy begins to think of herself as less of a captive, and more of a daughter of the tribe. And as this happens, Mercy wonders - if given the chance to become 'English' again, would she even want to take it? Is she even still Mercy Carter, the Puritan girl from Deerfield, or an entirely new person? This was an absolutely wonderful book. The author really was able to get inside Mercy's head, to make the reader feel what she was feeling, as she struggles to love and not hate, to mourn her lost family and friends yet be happy among the people responsible for the deaths, and to remember her old life without causing herself pain. I can't say enough good things about this book, so I'll just highly reccomend that you read it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I did not like this book at all, whenI had to read it for school I skipped chapters because I hated it that much, do not waste your money.