Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

The Shakeress

The Shakeress

Kimberley Heuston
For ages 12 and up
Boyds Mills Press, 2008   ISBN: 978-1590785751

When Naomi’s aunt tells her that she plans on sending Naomi to work in a mill, Naomi is outraged. She is determined not to allow anything to break up what is left of her family. Naomi’s mother, father, and little brother were killed in a fire, and now Naomi, her sister Glory, and her brothers Eli and Ben are alone in the world. Their aunt took them in reluctantly, and the woman goes of her way to make the children’s lives as unpleasant as possible. The question now is: where can they go and how will they live?

Naomi decides that their best option is to leave her aunt’s house and go to live with the Shakers. The Shakers are known for their kindness, and they are happy to take in children who have no home or family. Though life is very different in the Shaker village, and even though Naomi doesn’t get to spend much time with her siblings, the children have a good life. They are taught new skills, they go to school, and they are treated with kindness. Naomi learns all about medicinal plants and healing, and when the time comes for her to leave the Shaker community she has a skill that she can use to make a living for herself.

It is hard to leave her brothers and sisters behind in the Shaker village, but Naomi does not feel that the Shaker community is her place. She comes to accept that she does not want to spend the rest of her life there and that there is another life for her somewhere that will make her happy and fulfilled. So one day Naomi leaves the village and travels north into Vermont seeking a new life for herself. Little does she know that this is not going to be her last long journey.

This tale about Naomi’s struggle to find a place that is right for her, both on a physical and on a spiritual level, is beautifully written. With a gentle pace and vivid descriptions of life in nineteenth century America, this is a moving and thought-provoking story.