Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Isabel and her sister Ruth’s owner is dead. Instead of being worried about being sold, though, Isabel is happy, because she knows that Ms. Finch has freed them both in her will. She would have freed their mother too, had she not predeceased the mistress. When Ms. Finch’s nephew comes to claim her belongings, though, the girls encounter a problem. The lawyer who drew up Ms. Finch’s will has fled the area in the midst of the revolutionary chaos that comes from the American colonies attempting to gain their freedom from the British. Isabel and Ruth find themselves sold to the Locktons, a loyalist couple from New York. Isabel, renamed Sal by Mrs. Lockton, finds herself pulled between the patriot and loyalist causes, determined to do what it takes to win the freedom she knows is their due.
Isabel/Sal was a delightful character. I’m not sure precisely how old she was meant to be (perhaps I just missed that), but she was perfectly believable anywhere between 10 and 16. I loved how fiercely protective she was of her sister and how, even after a life of slavery, she refused to be beaten down and clung like a bulldog to her dignity. It was very interesting to read a novel set during the Revolutionary War that did not cheerlead for the colonists. In the eyes of those who were enslaved, life did not become more free with the vanquishing of a foreign king.
“Chains” would be a great read for anyone from upper elementary through adulthood. I’m excited to read more of Ms. Anderson’s work.