Monday, November 14, 2016

Forge (Seeds of America Trilogy - Book 2) by Laurie Halse Anderson

Forge continues the story of Isabel and Curzon begun in Chains, picking up the threads of it almost 10 months later, beginning on October 7, 1777 and ending on May 18, 1778. And while Chains was told from Isabel's point of view, in Forge it switches to Curzon's voice.

Isabel and Curzon have gone their separate ways.  Isabel has run away, determined to find her sister Ruth while Curzon finds himself first in the midst of the Battle of Saratoga after saving the life of a Patriot soldier name Eben Woodruff of the Sixteenth Massachusetts Regiment and nephew of the regiment's commanding officer. From Saratoga it was on to the winter encampment at Valley Forge. Curzon enlists in the army in the hope of gaining his freedom and in the process, besides Eben, he makes a few other friends and a few enemies.

Valley Forge proves to be a real challenge.  There are no barracks, so they are ordered to built huts that are always cold and leaky, many of the soldiers don't even have shoes anymore, and must stand in the cold snow in bare frostbitten feet, many are ill with disease and every one is cold and hungry all the time, desperate for food, warm clothing and shoes that never seem to arrive.  And for Curson, because he is African American, it also meaning dealing with constant racism.

Isabel and Curzon may have gone their separate ways, but he never stops thinking about her.  Nor has Curzon forgotten his former master, the cruel, sadistic James Bellingham.  In Chains, Bellingham had enlisted Curzon to take his place in the army with the promise of his freedom after the war, a promise he has no intention of honoring.  When he shows up at Valley Forge, Curzon finds himself again in his clutches, having enlisted again as a free man when he was still owned by Bellingham. And to real surprise, after arriving at the house where Bellingham is staying, he finds that Isabel has also there, as well as another slave, Gideon, who refuses to even acknowledge Curzon. To keep Isabel in her place and, Bellingham has placed an iron ring around her neck as a constant reminded of her enslavement, and only he has the key to unlock it.

Curzon begins plans to escape Bellingham again, and tries to talk Isabel into going with him, but she seems more interested in Gideon now, and eventually reveals that they have their own plans to escape.  But Curzon doesn't trust Gideon, and it turns out, with good reason. When the truth about Gideon is discovered, will Curzon and Isabel be able to mend their friendship enough to attempt escape from Bellingham?

Like ChainsForge never lets the reader forget the irony of African Americans fighting for the freedom of the country that has enslaved them, perhaps expressed best by Curzon's friend and fellow soldier Eben Woodruff who tells him "Two slaves running away from their rightful master is not the same as America wanting to be free of England." (pg 65) And Laurie Halse Anderson explores this irony in the attitudes and beliefs of a variety of different characters, American and British, rich and poor, as they impact the lives of Curzon and Isabel.

Isabel was such a compelling narrator in Chains, and I found that to be true of Curzon in Forge. By switching narrators, Anderson presents the harsh conditions on the battlefield and as well as in a house with a white man is a harsh master over his enslaved servants. I have to be honest and say that what happens on battlefields isn't something I am generally interested in, yet I found I couldn't put this down and have a better understanding of what the Patriot soldiers experienced than I ever did when we studied the Revolutionary War in school.

Just as she did in Chains, Anderson has included quotes at the beginning of each chapter, so taken from original sources and adding to the authenticity of the novel.  She also includes the dates during which each chapter occurs.  This kind of timeline approach also helps situate the reader in terms of what was actually happening in the Revolution.

Forge is a wonderful sequel to Chains, but it is also a novel that can stand alone.  And as I did with the first novel, I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Laurie Halse Anderson has excellent teaching resources for Forge.  You can find it HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was purchased for my personal library

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