Uncommon Faith

Overview

Change is coming to the mid-nineteenth-century town of Millbrook, Massachusetts, whether folks are ready for it or not. Old traditions and values are being questioned, especially by an outspoken young woman named Faith Common. She defies expectations that women be obedient and limit their education to domestic duties such as sewing. Faith is determined to find her own truth about her abilities as well as the abilities of any human being, man or woman, black or white. With her uncommon faith in each person, she is...
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Overview

Change is coming to the mid-nineteenth-century town of Millbrook, Massachusetts, whether folks are ready for it or not. Old traditions and values are being questioned, especially by an outspoken young woman named Faith Common. She defies expectations that women be obedient and limit their education to domestic duties such as sewing. Faith is determined to find her own truth about her abilities as well as the abilities of any human being, man or woman, black or white. With her uncommon faith in each person, she is a powerful catalyst for change. In this stirring historical novel, many citizens of Millbrook make their voices heard. Each tells of personal triumphs and tragedies, and of the controversies surrounding the rights of individuals, women, slaves, and freed slaves. Their stories shape their New England town in the years 1837 and 1838.

In 1837-38, residents of Millbrook, Massachusetts, speak in their different voices of major issues of their day, including women's rights, slavery, religious differences, and one fiery girl named Faith.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Krisher's (Spite Fences) historical novel begins in 1837, shortly after a stable fire has killed six residents of Millbrook, Mass. Brief monologues by 10 surviving townspeople convey the general mood of sad bewilderment while introducing different attitudes common to the period, among them different religious responses. At first, readers may need to refer frequently to the chart of "Families of Millbrook" at the front of the book in order to keep the relationships straight, but connections among characters become clearer as the story focuses on rebellious Faith Common, the daughter of a Methodist minister. Unlike many of her demure female acquaintances and her own soft-spoken, charitable mother, Faith cannot remain submissive or silent when she witnesses acts of injustice. Her battle for women's and African-Americans' rights tests her parents' patience, infuriates conservatives and causes many townsfolk to sit up and take notice. Privately shared by others in the community, Faith's views gradually stir winds of change in Millbrook. A chauvinistic schoolmaster gets his comeuppance, a cheating merchant is pressured to treat his female workers and customers with more respect, and bounty hunters searching for runaway slaves are outwitted. As Krisher relays the awakening of a sleepy town, her blend of voices may not always be harmonious, but it is invariably involving. Ages 12-up. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Faith Common, the spunky red-haired daughter of a missionary preacher and a stalwart community volunteer, faces questions of equality and human rights in her small New England town in the late 1830's. An active questioner by nature, she keeps a private notebook of problems to consider, such as why the shopkeeper can cheat the craftswomen of her town and why did God make the mind of a girl if it were not to be used. Taught to be obedient to the word of the Bible, she questions the restrictions placed on individuals in her community and learns to argue with the very references her father quotes to her. Learning when it's best to be silent, she still provokes change; when the schoolteacher refuses to teach the girls geometry, she eavesdrops on the lessons and teaches the girls through quilting blocks. However, when the slave catchers come to town, it's her brother John who steps into his own quiet courage. Told in the many voices of Faith's community, male and female, white and black, young and old, this rich densely textured novel will reward the reader interested in history and moral questions. Readers will cheer for Faith as she heads off to the newly founded Mount Holyoke college with close friend Celia Tanner and three blacks, slave and free, hidden in their beds. 2003, Holiday House, Ages 12 up.
— Elisabeth Greenberg
VOYA
In pre-Civil War days, proper ladies in polite society are not concerned with weighty issues such as abolitionism and a woman's place, but young Faith Common has never troubled herself with convention or what is considered proper, despite her mother's admonitions and her father's biblical reprimands. She does not hesitate to challenge what she believes is wrong or unfair, whether it is from her fanatical grandfather or sadistic schoolmaster. She is sassy, unerringly clever, and both admired and despised by others in Millbrook. The reader is initially introduced to the small town after a devastating fire has swept through and turned the town's world upside down. A multiple narrative style showcases the colorful characters and provides them individual voices as they cope with the tragedy and get on with their lives. Faith is at the center of the novel, but the reader only learns about her through the perspectives of others. Although it is at first difficult to keep them straight, the multitude of characters ultimately adds to the novel's complexity and richness. Award-winning author Krisher continues her record of tackling social issues with realistic aplomb. Fans of Krisher's Spite Fences (Delacorte, 1994/VOYA October 1994) will recognize the device of characters with a budding social conscience fighting against the prejudicial attitude to which their communities cling. This book will undoubtedly become a feature on school reading lists, although the average young adult might need some persuading to delve into it for recreation. VOYA Codes: 4Q 3P J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Will appeal with pushing; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined asgrades 10 to 12). 2003, Holiday House, 263p,
— Julie Watkins
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10-In Millbrook, MA, in the summer of 1837, a fire in the livery killed six people and injured many more. But that was only the beginning of the change in this small New England town. Ten characters tell the tangled tale, including friends and classmates of Faith Common, a brash and outspoken 14-year-old who champions the underdog and rallies the girls against a cruel schoolmaster who believes that "teaching a girl to master geometry is a bit like teaching a mule to dance." Her voice is never heard directly, but her story is part of the complex, interrelated narrative. In the course of the novel, families cope with disappearance and death, downtrodden women assert their collective power, a boy stands up to his preacher father and makes his own way through music, young people in the town help slaves along the Underground Railroad, and Faith is promised a place in the new Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. At first, readers may need to rely on the family trees provided to sort out the narrators, but each voice soon becomes distinctive. The conflicts between young and old will resonate with readers, and able teens with an interest in women's history will be particularly drawn to this uncommon tale, a crackerjack piece of historical fiction.-Kathleen Isaacs, Edmund Burke School, Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Krisher's mesmerizing read takes place from the summer of 1837 to the fall of 1838 in Millbrook, Massachusetts. A chorus of voices narrates (a chart/genealogy at the front helps keep the many townsfolk straight) as the point of view shifts. Even in a small town, there's much diversity: the childless Jacob and Hetty White are Quakers; John Common is a Methodist minister though his angry father-in-law Calvin is a Congregationalist; the black freedman Rufus Thomas makes his way by doing what needs done. The Faith of the title is an angry and spirited girl who doesn't understand why book-learning is denied her but urged upon her brothers. A cast of drunken husbands and wise or foolish or compassionate older women round out a tale that opens with a tragic barn fire and closes with the origins of Mount Holyoke and the hidden courage of the Underground Railroad. (Fiction. 12-14)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823417919
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/28/2003
  • Pages: 288
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Table of Contents

Part 1 Summer-Fall, 1837 1
Part 2 Fall-Winter, 1837 37
Part 3 Winter-Spring, 1838 71
Part 4 Spring-Summer, 1838 125
Part 5 Summer-Fall, 1838 165
Part 6 Fall, 1838 203
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