Time of the Witches
This book has been reviewed by Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Drucilla (Dru) Overbey and Gabe Matson are born on the same night in Salem Village. The Matsons become Dru’s guardians when her mother dies in childbirth, and her father is killed shortly thereafter. Gabe’s parents later die of smallpox, and the town keeps the children together until age 12. Then Dru goes to live with Thomas and Ann Putnam, while Gabe is sent to live with Thomas’ stepmother, Mary Putnam. The two families are neighbors but hate one another because of a dispute about inheritance.
Thomas and Ann Putnam have three children: Ann, Thomas Jr. and Elizabeth. Mistress Putnam wants Dru to be a companion to 9-year-old Ann, whom Dru finds strange and melancholy. Dru reveals that she misses Gabe. Mistress Putnam agrees to have a message sent to Gabe, inviting him to visit. That night, Mistress Putnam, who is pregnant, asks Dru to call on her mother. Dru hopes Mistress Putnam will be a real mother figure for her.
In the middle of the night, Dru finds Mistress Putnam in a family graveyard behind the house. The graveyard is filled with her dead babies. Mistress Putnam threatens to kill herself with a knife and join them. Dru addresses Mistress Putnam as her mother, and the woman comes to her senses. In the morning, Mistress Putnam doesn’t remember anything that happened. When Dru asks about inviting Gabe to the house, Mistress Putnam tells Dru to visit him. Dru is relieved to see that Gabe’s new home seems to be a happy one.
The next morning, Dru and the Putnams attend church. Before the service, the reverend asks the congregation to pray for his wife, who is dying of consumption. That afternoon, Dru and Mistress Putnam go to the reverend’s home to help care for his wife. Dru is confused — the night before, Mistress Putnam had told Dru that the minister was evil and was killing his wife. When questioned about this, Mistress Putnam tells Dru that she often says things she doesn’t mean. She thinks this is because Sarah Good, the village beggar woman, may have cursed her. Dru promises to keep her new mother’s affliction a secret.
Gabe tells Dru the reverend was dismissed, and he blames it on Mistress Putnam. Dru doesn’t believe it. The next morning, Mistress Putnam goes into early labor and loses the baby. Mistress Putnam becomes deeply depressed for several months. Afterward, she ignores her children, spends her days reading the Bible and often speaks of her enemies who’ve cursed her.
Three years pass, and Rev. Parris becomes Salem Village’s new minister. He brings with him his wife, Elizabeth, his daughter, Betty, his niece, Abigail, and his slave, Tituba. Ann and Abigail are the same age and become fast friends, with Ann often spending afternoons at Abigail’s. After one such visit, Ann reveals that Tituba read her palm. When Mistress Putnam finds out, she is very interested. She charges Ann and Dru with discovering if Tituba can find out who murdered her babies. The next time the reverend and his wife are away from home, Dru and Ann call on Abigail. Ann tells Tituba that Mistress Putnam has dreams about her dead children, and Tituba tells Ann that she sees the babies were indeed murdered. Before the slave can say anymore, Betty collapses from fright, and Dru and Ann are sent home. Dru convinces Ann not to tell her mother what Tituba said until they learn whether Tituba was lying.
The event with Tituba bothers Dru. Abigail invites Ann and Dru to visit again, and Dru goes to please Mistress Putnam. During the visit, Tituba mixes an egg white into water and tells the girls it will show them the face of their future husband. Ann claims to see Gabe’s face. When it’s Betty’s turn to look in the glass, the girl becomes upset, and Tituba sends the girls home. Abigail invites them to return the next day, when a group of girls from the village will be there. When Mistress Putnam questions them about what they’ve discovered, Ann reveals that Tituba told them that her babies were murdered.
Despite her misgivings, Dru accompanies Ann the next day. A group of girls from the village are at the house, and Tituba tells them stories about witches. This upsets Betty. Knowing that Betty is Tituba’s favorite and the slave will send everyone home if Betty is unwell, Abigail threatens Betty. She tells her to stop acting sick or she’ll give her something to be afraid of. Betty plays along, and Tituba tells them one last story before they leave.
That night, Dru hears Betty screaming. When Mistress Putnam visits the reverend’s house to see if she can be of help, she discovers that Betty has taken ill and is refusing to speak. Mistress Putnam tells Ann and Dru to remain silent about the magic they were practicing with Tituba. When Dru later takes food to the Parris family, she believes the girl is experiencing some kind of mental breakdown.
Gabe visits Dru that evening, telling her he will attend Harvard in the fall. After Gabe leaves, Dru, Anna and Mistress Putnam visit the Parris’ house. Abigail has begun to act strangely, and the reverend asked Mistress Putnam to come and pray. At the house, Abigail is flapping her arms as if she were trying to fly, and then crawls around on the ground making animal noises. When the adults leave the room, she returns to her normal self. She tells Dru and Ann that she’s pretending to be afflicted like Betty to protect herself from any accusations. She can claim she was under the influence of an evil spirit or a witch.
On the way home, Dru tells Mistress Putnam that Abigail is lying. Mistress Putnam tells her that Abigail’s lie might be to their advantage. They could use the lie to root out the witches in Salem and discover who murdered her babies.
Ministers from the surrounding area are called to pray for Betty and Abigail. During one meeting, Betty whispers Tituba’s name, leading the adults to believe Tituba is behind the affliction. Later, Mistress Putnam tells Anna and Dru that she fears they may be afflicted because of their association with Tituba. Ann agrees readily, but Dru hesitates. She doesn’t agree until she begins to feel a strange tingling in her feet. Looking back at the moment, Dru says it was the power of suggestion that made her feel afflicted, not a curse.
Tituba confesses to the claims of witchcraft, and a hearing is set to decide if she will be tried as a witch. Two women from the village, Sarah Osborne and Sarah Good, are also accused and are called to the hearing. On the day, Anna and Dru are made to sit with the accusers. Dru is surprised to see that all the girls who were present for Tituba’s stories are the accusers. As the women are questioned, the accused girls have fits and cry out that they are being tormented by the women’s specters. All three women are returned to jail to await trial.
Mistress Putnam has a dream involving her babies and a woman named Rebecca Nurse. She decides to accuse the woman of witchcraft. Dru knows this woman is good and tries to shut down the accusations. An angry Mistress Putnam forces Dru to testify or else she will accuse Gabe of witchcraft, too. Mistress Putnam also intimidates Dru by ensuring that she see prison conditions and witness hangings of convicted witches.
Mercy Lewis, one of the afflicted girls, tells Dru that she doesn’t want to lie anymore, but Dru is too afraid to speak out with her. When Mercy does tell the truth, she is accused of being a witch and sent to prison. She’s kept there until she says that one of the witches made her lie about being cursed. She rejoins the accusers, and the girls continue to accuse the people of the village of being witches.
Gabe visits. When Ann sees him at church, she reveals her vision about them getting married. When Gabe rebuffs her, she decides to accuse him of witchcraft. Dru knows she must save him and enlists the help of Mary Putnam. They pretend that they are being tormented by the specters of the governor’s wife and the wife of a famous minister in the area. Seeing the two girls having a fit, the other accusers join them in crying out against the two prominent women. Two days later, the governor forbids anyone from being convicted based only on spectral evidence. Gabe, along with the other prisoners, is released.
In an effort to put the trials behind her, Dru travels to France with a friend of Mary’s. Before she leaves, Gabe tells her he knows how she saved him, and he wants to marry her when she’s ready. Her journey gives her perspective, and she writes telling Gabe she will marry him in time.
The people of Salem profess to be Christians. They attend church regularly, read their Bibles and call for a prayer meeting when the girls in town show signs of being cursed.
Mistress Putnam attends church, reads the Bible and prays often, but these outward displays of faith are proved to be a mask to hide her hunt for vengeance.
Gabe wants to attend college to become a minister.
When the Putnam baby dies, Dru says the Lord’s Prayer over the child as she is buried. A minister accused of being a witch also says the Lord’s Prayer before he is hung.
Other Belief Systems
Tituba tells Dru and the girls in the village about witches and speaks of Satan, calling him a black man. Satan is said to carry a book that is filled with the names of his followers.
The girls of Salem who begin to accuse the villagers of witchcraft claim to be tormented by specters and ghosts. They claim that these evil spirits are tormenting them by causing them pain or harassing them when they try to sleep.
After Mistress Putnam’s baby dies, Dru holds the dead child.
Tituba tells a story about a young girl who falls in love with a boy her parents don’t approve of. The couple plans to elope, but the girl’s father overhears the plan. He confronts the couple and tries to shoot the boy. His shot accidentally kills the girl, and the father commits suicide.
After Betty whispers Tituba’s name, causing the adults to believe it is the slave who cursed the girl, Reverend Parris beats Tituba with a leather strap. Dru hears the woman screaming in pain.
Dru is forced to attend hangings of those convicted of witchcraft. She sees them from the corner of her eye, but there are no graphic descriptions of the hangings. A man named Giles Cory is accused of witchcraft, but he refuses to plead innocent or guilty because the law prohibits a trial until the person enters a plea. To force a plea from him, he is placed in a field with a wooden board on his chest. Heavy rocks are placed on his chest, and he is asked how he pleads. When he refuses, more weight is added until he is pressed to death.
Drucilla and Gabe hug one another often. As they grow older, a romantic tension begins to form between them. Before Drucilla leaves for France, she sees Gabe one last time, and the two share a kiss.
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