True to the tragic mulatto formula, Helen is largely ostracized by the majority of the slaves because of her light
skin and initial station as a house Negro. Her association to the local slave/witch
who practices voodoo causes nearly all the slaves to fear her. Her torment
is exacerbated when the master notices her strength and stamina during play and places her in the field with the very Negroes
who despise and fear her.
Her solace comes in the
form of stealing letters (one at a time) from the master's children's spelling books to learn the alphabet. She eventually teaches herself to read. This ability will
save her life (and others) repeatedly throughout her adventures in pursuit of freedom.
There is so much more to this book that this review does not cover because of space and time constraints. Simply said: The author is a great storyteller and the book
is superbly written. There are so many underlying issues and topics of discussion
that were intertwined in the novel that one simply has to read it for themselves to appreciate this body of work. Well done, Ms. Johnson! This book is on my Best Reads List
The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for The Thief of Letters is 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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