________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007

cover

The Way Lies North.

Jean Rae Baxter.
Vancouver, BC: Ronsdale Press, 2007.
340 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-55380-048-4.

Subject Headings:
United Empire Loyalists-Juvenile fiction.
Mohawk Indians-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Betty Klassen.

*** /4

excerpt:

"Where did you go when you rode off on that Rebel's horse?" Papa asked. He picked up his knife and the half-finished spoon that he had been whittling when Nick arrived. The knife bit into the soft wood, scattering tiny shavings as Papa hollowed out the bowl of the spoon.

"Not far. The horse went lame halfway to Albany. I left it in somebody's pasture and headed for New York on foot. Along the way a Loyalist family took me in, but I didn't stay long. By Christmas I was in New York. With no place to live and no money, I was in a bad situation until I met a Quaker who told me that the British needed couriers. He told me to apply to Colonel Robinson, the officer in charge of Guides and Pioneers."

"You never thought to enlist in a regiment?"

"No, sir. I did not." "You haven't joined the Quakers, have you?"

"No. But I share their hatred of war. As a courier carrying dispatches, I need not take the life of any man. That's a vow I made to myself when this war began."

"But your sympathies lay with the Rebels, as I recall." Papa stopped whittling. He raised his head and looked directly at Nick. "What happened to your Republican ideals?"

 

Jean Baxter's historical fiction novel captures the terror and hardships of Loyalists as they fled the Rebel troops during the American Revolution. It also addresses the divided loyalties that separated families. The novel, written in third person from 15-year-old Charlotte Hooper's point of view, begins in 1777 as Charlotte and her parents decide to travel north to Fort Haldiman on the shore of Lake Ontario. They leave with great sorrow after finding the body of Isaac, Charlotte's third older brother, in the ravine by their farm in the Mohawk Valley (an area now known as the State of New York). Readers meet more Loyalists as the family travels north along with members of the Mohawk nation who assist and guide them. 

     Baxter creates a mostly credible plot that revolves around Charlotte's estranged relationship with Nick, who is a few years older and not willing to go to war, and Charlotte's responsibility to her parents. Her mother's health is failing, and her father loses three toes due to frost bite. Details of their travels and life at Fort Haldiman after they arrive and are forced to spend the winter in a canvas tent elicit compassion from readers. The pace of the novel maintains interest as does the cast of characters which involves children, other adults, members of the Mohawk and Oneida Nations and both Rebel and British troops.

     While this novel could be used as a historical text to bring to life many details of Loyalist history, it does suffer from presentism in the way Charlotte speaks up for women to vote and questions the wedding vows that say she must "obey" her husband.

     It would also seem more plausible for the reader if, when Charlotte is captured by the Oneidas, she would have been used as a pawn in negotiating peace between the Mohawk and Oneida nations. Baxter gives her the role of convincing her Oneida captors that she has enough influence with Axe Carrier of the Mohawk that the Oneida bring her supplies to write a letter that brings peace between these two nations, and she is returned to her father unharmed.

     A map would helpful for younger readers to follow and understand the route the Loyalists traveled.

     The novel reaches a satisfying conclusion for Nick and Charlotte and leaves enough details open for a sequel.

Recommended.

Betty Klassen teaches in the Middle Years Program in the Faculty of Education the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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