How a Witch Hunt Could Happen Again | LISA

The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My synopsis:
The Fifth Petal by Brunonia Barry takes place in current day Salem, Massachusetts with a few flashbacks to Salem in 1989. Descents have the accused witches have been murdered and the new chief of police, John Rafferty, is trying to find the murderer. In order to do so, he needs to find the fifth petal- the missing descendant.
What was not to like?
My teacher heart loves the strong vocabulary used by the author. It was a nice refresher of words I do not hear on a regular basis- like consecrate and unnuanced. YA fantasy is my first love, but it does not often help me grow my vocabulary. The Fifth Petal also had strong foreshadowing that led to the climax of the story. I was definitely surprised when the murderer was discovered, and I found the plot gripping and interesting. If you are looking for a spooky read for Halloween, I think this one is perfect without being horrifying.
How is a book about the Salem witch trials relevant to today?
I am a firm believer that it is important for us to learn from our past instead of erasing it and pretending it did not happen. Like George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Unfortunately there are dark moments in America’s history, but I think our time would be better spent making sure we do not repeat past mistakes instead of hiding them. I’m obviously not talking about witchcraft here, but there are two points related to the Salem trials that I see playing out today: hysteria and an attack on our freedom of religion.
It is no longer bored girls and jealous housewives accusing each other of witchcraft; instead, today we have a biased mass media picking a choosing what we should care about instead of just presenting the facts and letting us formulate our own opinions. This is resulting in an misinformed public jumping to conclusions about issues and causing hysteria. You may say, “Now wait a second I thought the constitution guarantees us freedom of religion under the First Amendment?” That is true. On paper that sounds nice, but if I express my religion it could offend someone and result in me being called a bigot- among other nasty terms, or land me in jail, and have my business taken away from me. It is important to be update to on current events and to make sure we are not seeing the same hysteria and persecution of religion that was happening in Salem between 1692 and 1693. We cannot let the media distract us from the real issues.

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