Or Give Me Death: A Novel of Patrick Henry's Family
Told from the point of view of the Henry children, this compassionate tale explores the possibility that Patrick Henry's immortal cry of "Give me liberty, or give me death," which roused a nation to arms, was first spoken by his wife as she pleaded for her own freedom.
Or Give Me Death, by Ann Rinaldi, is a creative and imaginative story about Patrick Henry's family. What if his words "Give me libery, or give me death" was actually first said by his mentally ill wife when she is locked into the cellar? This story is narrated by two of Henry's daughters, Patsy in the first half, and Anne in the second half. It gets suspensefuly when the daughters' mother reveals that she can see which one of her children will "inherit" her disease.
This is a great historical fiction novel for people who are interested in mental illness in colonial America.
The book is about the family of Patrick Henry and takes place during the American Revolution. The first part is about Patsy, the eldest daughter. Patsy is given responsibility to take care of her younger brothers and sisters because her father is away at important meetings and her mother is slowly going crazy. Her mother attempts to drown her 2 month old brother, baby Edward. After saving Edward, Patsy takes on the responsibility of the household, along with the help of her her betrothed, MyJohn and her brother, John. Soon, her mother's condition becomes so bad and threatening to her children that she has to be locked up in the basement of the Henry household. The only question that is haunting the Henry children is who will inherit the sickness that Mama had.
The only person that Mama told was Anne, Patsy's younger sister. Anne tells her family that she is the one who inherits the disease so that Patsy will go ahead and marry MyJohn. Patsy does everything that she can to make sure that Anne doesn't end up like her mother, even depriving her of things that she liked. But Anne slowly starts to realize something, how a secret that is really major can have a big impact when it's kept for a long time. And what will happen to the person who inherits the disease?
I thought that this book was very well written. The suspense of the story kept me on edge until the very end. I think that this is the best Ann Rinaldi book I have read. Everyone should read this book, even if they don't like Historical fiction!
The story, about the family of Patrick Henry in the years leading up to the Revolution, has two narrators. Oldest daughter Patsy begins the book, worrying over her mentally ill mother, whose bizarre episodes are becoming increasingly frightening for both herself and her younger siblings. Between her mother's insanity and her father's prolonged absences, Patsy is tired of being alone and longs to marry her beloved MyJohn, yet fears that she may have been the one to inherit her mother's madness.
Midway through the book, spirited middle sister Ann takes over the narration. The last link between her mother and the rest of the family, Ann must use her spunk to survive life with her bossy older sister, and decide what to do with the secret that only she knows-- which sibling is destined for insanity.
As always, Rinaldi's story is both historically sound and entertainingly personable. Ann is the more likable of the two narrators, and she carries the second half of the book right down to the startling conclusion.