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Reviewed by Saifunnissa Hassam for Readers' Favorite
Brenda Murphy's When Light Breaks Through is a well-researched historical novel based on the 1692 Salem Village witchcraft trials in Massachusetts. The characters are based on actual figures of the time. At the story's core is the challenge of helping a deeply divided community to find peace and forgiveness. The principal characters are Ann Putnam (Junior) and Reverend Joseph Green. The story starts in 1692 in Salem Village. Ann Putnam, 12, and her friend Abby Williams, 11, play a game pretending to be afflicted and tormented by specters and witches. The two girls accuse specific community members of witchcraft. The trials, imprisonment, and executions of the accused create deep enmity and unforgettable suffering. In 1697, Joseph Green, 22, a schoolteacher and aspiring church minister from nearby Roxbury, became the pastor of the Salem Village church. When Light Breaks Through is how Joseph Green brought reconciliation, forgiveness, and peace to Salem.
I was immediately drawn into reading Brenda Murphy's When Light Breaks Through for its compelling characters and thought-provoking themes of forgiveness and peace. I particularly liked the story's richly detailed and evocative worldbuilding of 17th-century Salem Village, the farming community, family life, disputes within and between families, land disputes, and power struggles. The characters and the story sprang to life through those details. The novel's most challenging and chilling parts were the trials and the dark, complex web of motivations, accusations, grievances, and revenge. I liked the character development of Joseph Green. He is well aware of the challenges he faces when he became the Salem Village church pastor. I was often moved by how his beliefs and tolerance, forgiveness, and friendship helped him recognize opportunities to build bridges between people. I think the most poignant and emotionally moving parts of the story are when Ann Putnam comes to respect and trust Joseph Green and she finally confesses her role in the witchcraft trials. Joseph helps her seek forgiveness from the villagers. These scenes were particularly immersive and beautifully illustrated the story's title.