Is love worth dying for?
When Alis's parents reveal that she has been chosen to marry a man of forty, she is distraught - how can such an unnatural marriage be right? She abandons her life in the oppressive community where she has been brought up and flees to the city in search of freedom, only to find herself caught up in events beyond her control. Will Alis's decision to defy her parents have fatal consequences, not just for her, but for everyone who tries to help her, including the boy she loves?
|Publisher:||Andersen Press, Limited|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||354 KB|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
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First published in the U.S.A. by Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2009
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LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Alis / by Naomi Rich. p. cm.
Summary: Raised within the strict religious confines of the Community of the Book,
Alis flees from an arranged marriage to the much older Minister of her town and her life takes a series of unexpected twists before she returns to accept her fate.
eISBN : 978-1-101-02223-8
[1. Arranged marriage—Fiction. 2. Runaways—Fiction. 3. Religion—Fiction.
4. Assertiveness (Psychology)—Fiction.] I. Title.
Set in Minion
Alis stood nervously in the doorway. She wondered why she was wanted. Her parents had been much troubled of late, and several times she had caught her father gazing at her unhappily. She did not think she had done anything wrong, but it was easy enough to sin without knowing it, and the Minister was there with her parents.
Of course, Minister Galin came very often to discuss Community matters with her mother, who was the Senior Elder of their Community, but these days Alis tried to be busy elsewhere. More than once, lately, he had suggested that it was time Alis behaved more soberly, or hinted that she was too much inclined to question, when she should simply obey.
The shutters were closed against the winter afternoon. An oil lamp, burning steadily on the table, cast shadows on whitewashed walls and struck gleams from the polished wood of the bookcase where the precious volumes were kept. A small fire struggled in the hearth. In black lettering above the door lintel ran the words Praised be the Maker who created us all and in whom we trust.
Her parents sat at opposite ends of the bare table, her mother’s face pale above the gray of her dress. The Minister, in his usual dark coat and breeches, was standing with his back to the window, beyond which, Alis knew, snow was falling.
“Sit down, Alis.”
It was the Minister who spoke. Puzzled, she saw her mother’s eyes close briefly as if in distress. She sat down on one of the hard wooden chairs. The Minister was examining her, as if seeing her for the first time. He had a pale, rather melancholy face with dark eyes.
“You will be fifteen soon, will you not?” His dry voice gave nothing away.
“In five months, Minister Galin, at the start of summer.”
He nodded slowly. Was he going to rebuke her for giggling with Elzbet when they were taking their turn to clean the prayer house? She knew he had heard, for she had seen him watching them. Perhaps it would be as well to ask his pardon.
“Minister Galin, if I did wrong by laughing yesterday . . .”
He frowned, puzzled. “Yesterday?” Then his expression cleared. “Oh, no.” He smiled his wintry smile. “It is not a sin to laugh, even in the prayer house.” The smile faded and he hesitated. “Alis, your parents have something to tell you that concerns us both.”
Alis looked at her mother, but to her amazement she saw that Hannah had turned toward her husband, as if he were the one who must speak. He cleared his throat twice and then said huskily, “Well, Alis?”
In the silence, Alis became aware that her father, a master carpenter, was not dressed for work: he had on the clothes of stiff, dark material he wore only when there had been a death, as was the custom among them. Forgetting that in front of Minister Galin it was better not to speak until spoken to, Alis said, “Has someone died? Is it Aunt—?”
Her father interrupted her hurriedly. “No, no, child. No one has died. This is something . . . quite different.” He gave his wife an anguished look and went on. “Minister Galin has done us . . . has done you . . . a great honor.”
Alis stiffened. Surely her parents would not send her to work as a servant in the Minister’s house. That was for other girls. She could read and write better than anyone: she wanted to be a powerful woman in the Community like her mother, not a drudge whom the Minister could punish at will and whose life would be one long round of dreary duties.
“Are you sending me to serve him, Mother?” she asked fearfully. But once more, though Hannah usually took the lead in matters of importance, it was Alis’s father who spoke.
“No, daughter, no indeed. We would not want you to be a servant.” Again he hesitated. “My dear, you are to be . . . a wife.”
A wife? In horror she stared at the Minister. A wife? His wife! She turned first to her mother, then to her father. Her mother’s expression was stony; her father looked away. They had agreed!
Minister Galin departed awkwardly, leaving Alis to her parents.
“But he is old!” she cried, aghast. “I cannot marry him.”
“It is not for you to say what you will and will not do,” Hannah said stiffly. “A child’s part is to obey.”
“But you always said there would be plenty of time. And when Master Zachary would have married Kezia to her cousin and she did not wish it, the Elders forbade it.”
Her mother frowned. “That was different. The boy was not ready for marriage.”
As always, her mother had an answer. Though she would usually listen, it was rarely of any use to argue if she had decided a thing. Desperately Alis said, “I do not understand. Why does Minister Galin want me for a wife? I am nothing to him.”
“You will understand when you are older.” Her mother’s face was tense. “It is the will of the Maker.”
“But it is frowned on—when the man is so much older. I have heard you say so. How can it be the Maker’s will?” She knew it was not wise to persist but she was sick with panic.
Hannah’s expression darkened. “Be silent, Alis. You know nothing.” But Alis would not yield. Never before had she defied her mother in this way. Her voice rose. “It is because I know nothing that I will not be silent. How is it that I am to be married against my will and against my understanding? It is my right to know.”
Hannah was tight-lipped but she had herself in check. “You are a daughter of the Book. It is your right to be ruled. It is your right to obey. That is all.”
Desperately Alis turned to her father. “Tell me it is not so. You cannot wish it, even if my mother does.”
He looked at her with his gentle eyes, shaking his head sorrowfully at her.
“Now, Alis, we are all bound to submit to the Maker’s will, as you know. And you must not blame your mother. She does what she must, not what she wishes.”
Alis switched her gaze to her mother’s face. For a moment, she thought she saw there a look of utter despair, but in an instant it was gone and Hannah’s expression was stony again.
“Mother,” she said pleadingly, “you are the Senior Elder. The Minister will surely listen to you, if you tell him that you have changed your mind.”
Hannah said quietly, “But I have not changed my mind. Nor will I. No, Alis! Listen”—for Alis had opened her mouth to protest—“it is hard for you to understand, I know. You are very young, and you think that we are to please ourselves in this life. But it is the Maker we must please—as the Book tells us—and sometimes his ways are dark to us. You must be patient. Now come to me like a good child and tell me that you repent of your willfulness.”
The gentler tone might have tempted Alis, but this was no ordinary matter. She could not say she was sorry and be forgiven, as if she had merely forgotten to feed the hens.
Holding back tears of fright, she said furiously, “But I am not a good child. I am not a child at all if I am to marry the Minister. He is old enough to be your husband.”
Hannah went very still, and in the silence Alis could hear her own heart thudding. For a long moment, nothing happened. At last her mother said harshly, “You are a willful, disobedient girl. Now go to your bed. And pray to the Maker to give you a more humble spirit, lest you be flung into darkness at the last.”
In her tiny room under the eaves, Alis lay sleepless, full of terror. Who could she turn to if her own mother was against her? She could not marry the Minister! How could her mother think it? He was not a boy, to be thought of as a husband in a few years’ time. He was the Minister whom she must fear and obey.
She had been taught to read the Book in times of trouble, but its rules and commandments were no use to her now. Where was she to find help in this most terrible affliction? In her mind’s eye she saw the settlement: a circle of houses round the green, all dominated by the stone prayer house; dirt-track lanes with cottages scattered along them. And beyond, the farms and orchards. The houses would all be dark at this time, shuttered against the winter cold while their occupants slept. She had friends among the girls—Betsy the weaver’s daughter, Susannah whose father was the cobbler, and Elzbet of course, the dearest of them all. But what could Elzbet do?
The marriage was not to be announced yet, to give her time to become accustomed to the idea, her mother had said: the summer would be soon enough. Alis longed to believe that something would happen before then to save her: her parents would relent; the Minister would say that it was a mistake. But she knew it would not be so: such a decision had not been taken lightly. Her feelings counted for nothing.
Between bouts of nightmares, into which she would fall as suddenly as she might slip on wet stones, Alis struggled to see a way out. Her brother Joel might have helped her perhaps, but he had run away seven years ago—to the city, it was thought. They never spoke of him.
She remembered him—sun-browned and bright-eyed, his fair hair cropped as was the custom. Long ago he had teased her and played with her, and she had loved him. Could she, somehow, escape from Freeborne and find him again?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This book is a good read--but $14.99 for a short (under 200 pages), simple teen ebook from 2009?! Come on, Penguin! Glad I borrowed it from the local library's ebook collection.
There is no way I would pay this much for an ebook. Its ridiculous. I don't own an ebook, can't lend it to my friends, cannot sell it at a used book store or a yard sale or donate it to charity. Ebooks should be much cheaper then the hardback DTB... I wanted to read this book, it looked interesting, but for the price I can easily find three other books that look just as interesting. This publisher must be unbelievably greedy. I would suggest that the author find another publisher if she wants to be successful. Time are hard, I look for things that are reasonably priced, I don't waste my money. Just because I bought a Nook it does not mean I am made of money. I hope the publisher and author will reconsider their pricing... you lost a sale to me today.. and even if you bring the cost down, who knows if I will ever come across this book again and think it looks interesting enough to buy. And if I had bought this book and liked it, I would have bought the author's next book.. but no, instead your greed got you no sale at all. Its a stupid way to do business. I hope you all will reconsider how you are doing business and decide to conduct your business in a more reasonable fashion. Good luck trying to sell this book at this price.. only a fool would pay this much.
Alis lives with her mother and father in the strict religious community of Freeborne. She spends her days helping her mother with household chores, tending the sick, and serving The Maker. At fourteen, she hasn't given much thought to her future. She just assumes that one day she will get married, have children, and become a respected Elder of the community like her mother. But Alis gets a shocking surprise. Her parents announce she is to be married to the minister of Freeborne. A man she has grown up fearing and respecting, a man who is more than double her age. Alis immediately sets to making plans to escape her fate. Years ago, her brother ran away to the City. Alis just needs to find a way to get there, because it is much too far to walk. Her journey turns out to be both dangerous and enlightening. She meets people she never would have if she'd remained in Freeborne all her life. Alis even meets her true love, but in a world of strict religious rules and corrupted men, it won't be easy to hang on to the one she loves. ALIS is so much more than a love story. It is a story of developing you own beliefs, questioning absolute authority, and finding out what is really important in life.