Set Me Free by Ann Clare LeZotte
Summary: Three years after being kidnapped and rendered a “live specimen” in a cruel experiment to determine the cause of her deafness, fourteen year old Mary Lambert is summoned from her home in Martha’s Vineyard to the mainland to teach a younger deaf girl to communicate with sign language. She can’t help but wonder, Can a child of eight with no prior language be taught? Still, weary of domestic life and struggling to write as she used to, Mary pours all her passion into the pursuit of freeing this child from the prison of her isolation. But when she arrives at the manor, Mary discovers that there is much more to the girl’s story — and the circumstances of her confinement — than she ever could have imagined. Freeing her suddenly takes on a much greater meaning — and risk.
In Show Me a Sign, Ann Clare LeZotte introduced us to Mary Lambert and the people of Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1800s, where nearly everyone signed and deaf islanders were fully integrated into the life of the island. The Mary we meet in Set Me Free, three years after she was kidnapped and dragged to the mainland to be experimented upon, is warier and wiser. When she is offered the chance to tutor an eight-year-old deaf girl who seems to have no access to communication, she says yes, though she has no idea of the web of secrets and lies she will uncover when she leaves the island to go to the fine manor house. Mary relies on her wits and her own internal moral compass to communicate with the hearing people in the house, always determined to reach the girl – determined not to give up on her, even if her own family already has. Along the way, Mary must confront old friends and enemies, and reckon with the web of prejudice around her, even in her own family and history. LeZotte once again offers a nuanced picture of history, naturally incorporating characters of many backgrounds into the story and showing how the lives of the Wampanoag, black, and white characters are intertwined both on the island and the mainland. Mary remains both passionate and compassionate even as she learns greater patience for those whose minds have not been opened as much as her own. At a family dinner, Papa toasts Mary by signing, “To our Mary, in all her beautiful contradictions.” LeZottte’s work, in turn, shines a light on the beautiful contradictions in every one of us.
SET ME FREE is out now.