Fields of the Fatherless
post written by Esther Filbrun
Title: Fields of the Fatherless
Author: Elaine Marie Cooper
Major Themes: American Revolution
Synopsis: When the peace of her town and family is disturbed by the beginning of the Revolutionary War, is there any way Betsy can find hope after the horror of one day’s tragedy?
I’ve been intrigued by the cover of Fields of the Fatherless for several years now, but never took the time to read it until just recently. What a story! It definitely doesn’t rate very high on the list of favorite books for the year in some respects (and very high in others!), but as far as the plotline goes there is much food for thought within its pages.
Betsy Russell, a young eighteen-year-old living in Mentomy Village, Massachusetts, doesn’t know what to think when war unexpectedly arrives on her doorstep. Despite the quickly deteriorating relationship between the British and the colonials, she does her best to continue a normal life. Then, in the middle of the night, a rider comes bolting through town shouting “the regulars are coming! To arms!” From that moment on, Betsy’s life spirals into a nightmare much bigger than anyone could have imagined. As the women and children leave town to stay in a slightly safer location, the men prepare to defend their homes and lives. Although lame, Jason Russell decides to stay behind, and Betsy can only pray that the Lord will protect her father. Will they all make it through alive? What will the regulars do when they arrive? Do the colonists have any chance against the well-equipped and expertly trained British soldiers?
Fields of the Fatherless is one of those books I would classify as a favorite-not-favorite. The only thing I actually didn’t like about the story was the fact that it is a war novella…which is kind-of the point of the book. I hated that, though, partly because I don’t believe Christians should be involved in war or killing of any kind (Matt. 5:21-22, 43-48 as an example), but also because war is simply awful. Even though it was shown in a fairly sensitive fashion in this story, it’s still there—in all its stark ugliness.
Despite that dislike throughout the book, though, there were some things that really surprised and delighted me. I loved the reality in the story—bad things happened to people, even ones close to the main character, the kinds of things that really do happen in life. It was very realistic without being dramatic. Near the end, the main character ended up doing something that came as quite a shock to me, but in the good sense of the term. For the sake of not spoiling the story for you, I won’t say what it was, but suffice it to say she made a choice that I really admired. And she learned quite a bit from that choice as well, which added a very interesting flavor to an otherwise heavily patriotic book (which, in some ways, isn’t bad at all).
I had a couple favorite quotes from the book that I thought I’d share, too:
“’Tis one thing to follow what’s right on this earth, to take a stand against an unjust cuase. ‘Tis another altogether to forget the precepts of God when there is a person in need. We must look past the horizon on earth at those times to view the horizon of heaven. God commands us to do so.” — Betsy’s mother, Elizabeth
“T’woud not have mattered, if I had died doing the right thing.” She paused. “If I did not do the right thing, it would mean something inside my soul had died. Nothing is worth that. Not even my life.” — Betsy
In all, I really enjoyed this look at history. I doubt I’ll ever read through Fields of the Fatherless again, but I value it for the view on the early stages of the American Revolution it gave me. We normally hear about the brave ride of Paul Revere or other like happenings with George Washington, but this story gives a very intimate view of one little village and how the war affected the people who lived there. Knowing that almost everyone mentioned in the story actually were real people also adds a lot of depth to the book. For that, I’d highly encourage just about anyone to read this story although please read the warnings below—this book would be best for those in mid-late teens and older.
WARNING: Throughout the book, there were several words used that I didn’t like (more the way they were used than anything else): “bloody backs” (very frequently used), “blast”, “hell-bent”, and “vow”. A woman in labor is mentioned in the preface and again in chapters 10 and 11—there isn’t a whole lot of description, but more than some may be comfortable with. Repeatedly throughout the last half of the book are descriptions of some of the killings that took place through the war—brutalities with hatchets, bayonets, etc., and of course there are several mentions of blood. There is a mention of a kiss in chapter 2 and “wanting more than a kiss” in the beginning of chapter 3. And in chapter 20, there is a mention of a character talking to someone who was buried—“though his physical ears could no longer hear, perhaps his spirit could.”
Reading Independently—Ages 15 and Above, Adults
Links to buy Fields of the Fatherless:
AbeBooks: View Choices on AbeBooks.com
Keywords: American Revolution