Review: The Mourning Wars by Karen Steinmetz


Title: The Mourning Wars

Author: Karen Steinmetz

Publisher:  Roaring Brook Press

ISBN: 978-1596432901


May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Based on true events, THE MOURNING WARS is a gripping, powerful, and utterly memorable historical novel. In 1704, Mohawk Indians attacked the frontier village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, killing 50 and kidnapping 112 more, including John Williams, a Puritan minister and prize hostage, and his children.

This is Eunice’s remarkable story, fictionalized but based on meticulous research, about a seven-year-old girl’s separation from her family, harrowing march to Canada, gradual acceptance of her new Native American life, and ultimate decision at 16 to marry an Indian and reject her stern father’s pleadings to return to the fold.


When I saw this book, I immediately wanted to read it.  I love books about Native Americans, and the setting looked like something right up my alley.  I admit that reading it was rough going at first, because I found it difficult to immerse myself in the third person, present tense narrative, but as I continued to read, I was caught up in Eunice’s new life with the Mohawk family that adopted her.  This was a great read, and Eunice’s struggle to understand who she is and where she belonged was very, very compelling.

When Eunice was 7, the small settlement of Deerfield is attacked by a group of Mohawks warriors.  During the nightmare journey that follows, she loses her mother and several of her siblings as they are marched to Canada through the freezing snow.  Eunice is separated from her father, a preacher and esteemed member of the Deerfield community, and she’s adopted by Atironta and Kenniontie.  The couple lost their daughter to an illness, and the raid was sanctioned by the tribe’s leaders to replace people who died from sickness or from the clashes between the warring French and British colonists whose European war has trickled to the colonies. 

Eunice at first waits for her father to pay a ransom for her and take her home, but as the years stretch forward and she hears nothing from her English family, she begins to settle into her new life.  She is always troubled by her feelings of abandonment, and this continues to eat away at her, even as she finds contentment with her new family and friends.  As she begins to feel comfortable and at home, she begins to fear that her father will come and get her.  This constant internal struggle was heartbreaking.  Even though Atironta and Kenniontie love her unconditionally, Eunice is still stung by the thought that her father has forgotten her.  There is an emptiness inside of her that nothing can fill, and this emotional turmoil kept me glued to the pages.

The Mourning Wars unfolds through little slice of life activities.  They slowly build together to create a fascinating snapshot of what life might have been like before Twitter, Facebook, and, heck, even the USPS.  Though occasionally the narrative was a bit too textbookish, I enjoyed this story.  A lot.  There is so much emotion packed into these pages, as a brave young girl works through who she is, and where she’s meant to be. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher