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'Blood Secret'     Send a link to a friend

[NOV. 3, 2004]  "Blood Secret," by Kathryn Lasky, HarperCollins Publishers, 2004, 249 pages

Review by Linda Harmon

Fourteen-year-old Jerry Luna had been mute every since her mother's disappearance from a campground several years ago. Her mother's lifestyle was such that anything could have happened. Her mother hung out with potheads and drug dealers and dragged Jerry from one rock concert to the next. When the state troopers came to search for her mother, Jerry was wandering around the edge of the campground and wouldn't speak. Jerry knew what her mother was wearing, but she couldn't tell them. She had buried her words so deeply this time that they wouldn't come out.

Jerry ended up in several Catholic Charities homes, but a relative was eventually found, her great-great-aunt Constanza de Luna, and Jerry was sent to live with her. Even though Constanza was 90 years old, she still had a thriving bakery business in Albuquerque, N.M., and still made her own deliveries. She lived in the country in an old adobe-style house. Her yard was full of ovens called "hornos," used to bake the bread. Constanza was a practicing Catholic, but Jerry noticed that she had some different ideas about food, cleanliness and lighting candles on Friday evening. Constanza wasn't aware of the origin of these ideas but had always practiced them.

Jerry started school within a few days of moving to her aunt's. Everyone at the schools seemed to know about her, and they were very gracious and accepting. The first day she met a friend named Sinta Garcia. Sinta was kind and sweet and Jerry felt comfortable with her. This is one part of the story that doesn't ring true.

One day while Jerry was exploring her aunt's house, she went down into the basement and discovered an old trunk. When she opened the truck very strange things began to happen. She picked up a piece of old lace with a brown stain that she realized was a bloodstain. She heard voices in her head and realized the voices were telling her the story of her ancestors. Each article she touched in the trunk gave her more information about her family's often tragic past.

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Her ancestors' story began to unfold in Seville, Spain, in June of 1391 in the "House of the Lace Maker" at the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition. Jerry learned that her ancestors were Jewish and were first burned at the stake in Seville, leaving one small daughter, Miriam, as a survivor. Even though the stories were disturbing, she kept going to the trunk to learn more. The voices traced the history and forced migration of the family, ending in New Mexico in 1912. Jerry learned that she was a descendant of Spanish Jews who were burned or forcibly converted to Catholicism over a time span of approximately 500 years.

Eventually, with the kindness and patience of her aunt and her friend Sinta, Jerry began to speak again and interact socially with people. She finally shared the information from the trunk with Constanza, which helped her understand many things about herself and her family.

This story combines time travel and coming of age in a well-written but disturbing story. As the narrative goes back and forth between present day and the past, the family relationships can be a little confusing, but the extensive family tree in the back is very helpful. The "Author's Note" at the end offers more information about the devastating extent and horror of the Inquisition. Due to the content, this book is recommended for young adults in grade seven and up.

[Linda Harmon, Lincoln Public Library District]


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