Sunday, June 24, 2012
Title: The Orphan Master
Author: Jean Zimmerman
Genre: historical fiction
As promised a few months ago, I have finally reached The Orphan Master on my reading pile...
The Orphan Master is set in the colony of New Amsterdam (present-day Lower Manhattan). America's most famous, bustling metropolis started out as a humble Dutch colony complete with canals and a wall (precursor to Wall Street) to keep out the "savages." In 1663, New Amsterdam is in danger of being overtaken by the English and the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Most locals don't care about the political storm raging through their colony; there is a more serious threat that's ruining their lives. Children are being killed; specifically orphans. Not only are the orphans being killed, but they are being raped, tortured and eaten. Rumors abound of the witika, a Native American demon that eats and thrives on human flesh. Witika sightings abound and the suspect list grows. Suspects include the colony's orphan master, a visiting Englishman, a local female trader, various male leaders in the colony, and of course, some Native Americans.
Not only does The Orphan Master provide the reader with a chilling mystery, but we get a glimpse of everyday life in America in the 1600s. Oysters were about a foot long, Dutch women had more legal and social freedom than their British counterparts, and I learned about a Dutch-Indian War (the Esopus Wars) that I had never heard of before.