We are fascinated by the story of Lizzie Borden. Who doesn’t want to hear about a woman that not only was blamed for the gruesome death of her father and step-mother, but also was determined by the jury to be not guilty? The more we learn about her situation, the more we want to know. It’s a creepy, sad story that would most likely not have the same outcome today, since in those days, no one could believe that a woman could be capable of something so horrific. Leaver and Currie have taken this sordid tale and turned it into a novel of a twisted family that is touched by madness. Crazy is a family trait, and the narrator, a seventeen-year-old Irish maid, gets stuck in the middle of something sinister.
The patriarch is a miserly, controlling man; his wife spends most of her time in her room, due to the heat; the eldest daughter, Emma, is often absent, trying to stay away from the oppressive home environment by staying with friends; and the younger sister, Lizzie, is a lonely 32-year-old unmarried woman completely and utterly under her father’s thumb. Because it is hard for them to keep a maid, the Borden family pays more than other people do, and Bridget is eager to save enough money to bring her younger sister over from Ireland to live with her.
While she doesn’t feel unsafe there, Bridget can feel the weight of the secrets in the house and the gossip in the town. She becomes Lizzie’s only friend and confidante, and the stories she tells Bridget (and what Bridget sees and hears on a day-to-day basis) are both frightening and heartbreaking. Mental illness runs in the family, and it takes a toll on all of the Bordens in one way or another. But hearing both sides of the story only serves to confuse Bridget even more. She doesn’t know who to believe and starts to fear for her own sanity. But is it too late?
I can almost smell the old mutton stew that’s been sitting out all night, hear those deadbolts as they are being thrown, and feel the distress and uneasiness described. I completely enjoyed the twists and turns in this version, the addition of the narrator and the feeling of not knowing who to trust. Their doom is sealed by history, but since no one knows the true story of what happened that day, the great storytelling comes with the retelling.
Sweet Madness by Trisha Leaver and Lindsay Currie was published September 15, 2015 by Merit Press. A free copy of this book was given to Ink and Page in return for an honest review. Big thanks to the Publisher and the Authors.
Genre: Young Adult Fiction Historical Thriller Mystery
Ages: 13 and up