Elisabeth Berg’s Letter-Essay #3: Chains

I have recently finished a 316 pages historical fiction book called Chains. The author of this novel is Laurie Halse Anderson, she also wrote Speak, Forge, Ashes and Fever 1793. She lives in Mexico, New York. Twisted was a New York Times bestseller. Her YA novel Speak was a National Book Award finalist, a Printz Honor Book, and a ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Novel  Readers, also her novel Fever 1973 was named one of the New York Public Library’s 100 Best Books of 2000 and was selected as an ABA Kid’s Pick of the Lsts title. Laurie Halse Anderson also wrote several picture books, Thank You, Sarah and Independent Dames. I made a move to read this book because of my obsession with fiction and fantasy books. Not many historical fiction novels strike me fancy but this one, I don’t think is like any other. Laurie Anderson is descriptive in different way that’s many other writers don’t have that skill. This is my second time reading this book but the difference is that i read it through the second time and finished it. Chains as a profound impact on who you are as a writer and who you are has a readr. This book is to be read as if to a writer.


In the novel Chains, Isabel Gardener an African American slave has been living her life as a slave and caretaker of her little sister Ruth. With her mother and father dead and long gone, Isabel’s master; Miss. Mary Finch died a quick death. A will was left for Isabel and Little Ruth to have freedom. Mr. Roberts aka (the snake) was to be the only living relative of Miss Mary Anne FInch and sold the girls in a orchison and left with some pocket change. Isabel and Ruth come on a incredible and heartwarming path that can bring tears to your eye’s. The path holds, strife, friendship, betrayal and a mark for insolence. The ending holds a other to begin a series.   


I noticed how Laurie Anderson added the littlest of description to the setting and even to an  event, one event is when Master Lockton, and his *friends* have a meeting about the rebels“ The cuffs of his coat frayed and his were hands stained in ink. Next to him sat a man with suspicious gray eyes and a liver colored coat.” (pg 57) These details are given in the smallest minority and give the setting more of a picture yet they feel so important, as if you didn’t have them the book wouldn’t be complete.. You can clearly see what event are taking place and all the details are laid out to look at. Not many authors describe with such detail. Laurie Anderson is a author to watch.


I don’t get why the author “sold” Ruth. In the middle, Madam seems to have turned over a new leaf and offers Isabel (now Sal Lockton) some sweet milk. It seems as if the Madam has finally found reason but, the milk had sleeping drought and when Sal fell asleep Madam “sold” away Ruth in the night.  Maybe Laurie Anderson let this fall into play to keep the book slowly moving. This did have effect on the whole and story and if so Ruth wasn’t sold I wonder if Sal would have ever found freedom? Would even Curzon still be alive? The life of Sal Lockton would probably have carried until her due date. Isabel would still have the notion to protect her sister but it wouldn’t have been that strong even if they did not go throught the hard times.


I read Chains as if I am reading as a writer. Laurie Halse Anderson yes, a writer to watch. In the text she has descriptive details that you wouldn’t see in any other story and after that her historical fiction seems more like a story. In some cases Chains is fun to read as if looking at the scenery. You can picture the scenes in your head or describe them through your own writing. But if you were to slow down and read the signs, you can pick up the, Words of the Wiser and even Again and Again. The flashbacks can put in a mood knowing that in the story nothing can change this because it’s the past. It affects the story in relevant ways. As seen on page 4 “The morning mist twisted and hung low over the field. No ghosts yet, just ash trees and maples lined up in a mournful row” This flashes back to where and how Isabel’s mom believed in ghosts.


I was interested by this passage, when a battle is raging outside, Sal is to risk her life just to get some food for Madam, and try to board the boat of freedom by joining the british. “Madam said something, but I couldn’t make out her words.

Yes, ma’am, I mumbled my hands doing the work of a slav, my mind racing free.

I will run and join the British.

The thought washed over me like a river, sweeping away the dead bees that had filled my brain with confusion.” (page 174)

It shows that, throughout the book Isabel has been saying how their are bees in her head and that the buzzing won’t stop. This shows that Laurie Anderson watches out for again and again signposts. This deserves to sit on the shelf with all the other Laurie Anderson books as a place in the community. I would rate this book an 8 out of 10 because i have the need to save my 10’s.


Signing off,

Elisabeth Berg

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3 thoughts on “Elisabeth Berg’s Letter-Essay #3: Chains

  1. Nicely done, Elisabeth. Yes, Anderson is a mentor writer, meaning that if you want to become a better writer then it would be wise to read her books and to read them closely; she is a master at using figurative language.

  2. Hi Elisabeth!
    I also read this book and the rest of the series. I do agree with you that it’s a wonderful story that warms your heart. One thing you might want to check up on is your spelling a grammar. Here and there you have an extra e or an a, or you all together are missing a letter. I’m not that good at spelling and grammar either, but I found a good website you could use to help you. I use Grammerly.com and I usually check all my writings with this! Though these are just small things, checking it would make it better and more sophisticated.
    Your friend Mia Larkin

  3. Elisabeth,
    I like how you paid close attention to the story and noticed that Laurie Halse Anderson is a good author to learn from. This is very smart, and I think it would be a great thing! After all, you are supposed to learn from reading!
    You did a great job on your essay, but I noticed a few times you had some spelling and grammatical errors. I definitely agree with Mia to use Grammarly.com, in fact, I just used it now to correct “definitely”! I think it will help a lot, as it has helped me to improve my grammar, too. You did a good job, and despite some tiny errors, you explained your thinking very well!

    Awesome writing,
    Elizabeth A. 🙂

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