Friday, September 9, 2011

Shame The Devil by Debra Brenegan

Shame The Devil:  A Novel is an historical fictional account of columnist Fanny Fern.

Sarah Payson Willis is the fifth child of nine, she is flamboyant, pert, sassy and nothing women are supposed to be like in the early 1800's.  Her father, Nathanial Willis,  was disgusted with his daughter's behaviour and often has the minister pray over her.  Her mother, Hannah Parker, is thrilled with her head-strong daughter and often encourages Sarah to be the free spirit she is meant to.

Sarah doesn't believe anything is wrong with her, she thinks she is perfect and doesn't understand the frowns of the adults in her life.  As she grows older, Sarah drops the "h" from her name, marries for love and has her path set before her.

After marrying Charley, they have three daughters, their eldest, Mary Stace, contracts a brain fever and dies.  Her parents are devastated and move to the seaside where they can coalesce however, another tragedy strikes and Charley also passes on.  Sara is left with two young daughters, a world of grief and no one in her family or that of Charley's will help her.

The families join to belittle Sara, they try to steal her children and each day she struggles to put on their table while everyone believes Sara, uppity Sara, has got her just rewards.  Her older sister Julia is the only one who seems to understand and offers what solitude she is able.

On the day that Sara has to send her oldest surviving daughter, Grace, to live with Sara's in-laws, Sara vows to come for her as soon as she is able.  Hezekiah and Mary Eldredge are very pious and religious and they vow to chase the devils from Grace's soul and wipe Sara from her memories forever.

Sara and Ellen, her youngest daughter, live off of bread and milk, on good days, live in a drafty living conditions with no source of heat, their clothes are hanging in tatters off their backs and still her family ridicules her and shows her no Christian outpouring of good and kindness.

One day, as Sara is walking to go visit Grace, she comes up with an idea that will change their lives forever, and Franny Fern is born.  It doesn't take long before Sara/Franny becomes popular in the newspapers and now Sara has the power to right the wrongs that she has hounded her, however, she is a woman in a man's world and keeping on top of her game and keeping her children with her is a fight she always seems to be leading...unless she can change the course of history forever.

I thought this was a magnificent read.  I would have loved to have known Sarah Willis a.k.a. Franny Fern, she sounds like she would have made a great friend!!  I loved her sassy attitude and her faith even in adversity.  I loved how she never gave up even when it would have been easy to do.  I love how she stood up to the men in her life and put most of them in their places.  I enjoyed reading how she and many women like her, at the time, made a difference, enabling for the women of today to have the freedoms they do.

I am totally exasperated to learn though, that even after 150 years, many men STILL think like this...truthfully, how small-minded can anyone be to believe women should be seen not heard, should be dutiful, loyal while receiving nothing of the same in return.  Men, at one time, were able to put their wives in an insane asylum, just because they COULD!!  Disgusting!!

I have come to realize, after reading this thought provoking novel, that most men are afraid.  They are afraid of almost everything they come in contact with and I believe they try to keep women under their rule is because of this fear.  Women, for the most part, are pretty resilient, how would you explain the thousands of years of abuse by men, to continue to procreate, continue to love, continue to feel.  It's because women, who also fear, are able, for some reason, to shake it off and get back on the horse and ride again.  Women are able to remain passive during times of great turmoil and work on auto-pilot, a trait I don't see in men.

I am very thankful I was not born in that world where men ruled all, I would've been a Sarah Willis, a Franny Fern, an Emily Bronte...

I enjoyed how each person in Sara's life had a piece in the book.  It wasn't always from Sara's point of view, sometimes we seen the situation through Grace's eyes, or Hezekiah's, Sara's brother Nat, just to name a few.  Giving a more rounded appeal to the persona of Franny Fern.  Above each chapter is a quote from newspaper articles that Franny Fern and her other nom de plumes wrote under.  Showing her gritty, no-nonsense side to current events.

I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good historical piece with a believable and enjoyable writing style.

Mad Moose Mama

** Disclosure: I did not accept any compensation from the sponsors other than review copies, my views are my own, reviewed by me..as I see it~!! **