The White
by Deborah Larsen


Knopf, 2002. ISBN 0375413596.
Reviewed by Judith Helburn
Posted on 04/16/2003

Fiction: Historical

Deborah Larsen creates a lyrical novel based upon the life of Mary Jemison, who was abducted by a Shawnee raiding party in 1758. When she was in her 80's, Mary told her story to James Seaver who authored a book based upon Mary's life.

Larsen alternates between Mary's voice, dreamy and poetic, and details of what did and what might have happened. Even as her life as a "white" fades, she finds passages from the Bible entering her head to explain her life as a Seneca woman.

"Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest... For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" For me this saying of the Lord's was fulfilled in my life among the Seneca."
For a while, Mary mourns her loss of the ability to read and write and then she realizes that
"She loved the open air and the contrasts of its temperatures; earth dry and sodden, loamy and rock-like; fire and its warmth and scorch; water cleansing and flooding. The closer she came to these things the more she realized that words were not the same as the real wild onion, the actual rabbit fur, the coiled fern frond, the lightning."
Mary lives much of her life in the Genesse Valley of Pennsylvania with her husband, children, house and land. Slowly, the whites move into the area, peacefully settling nearby. The beauty of fictionalized accounts is that a fine author such as Deborah Larsen brings to us a warm, living picture to embrace and remember.

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