2 out of 4 stars
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Time. It can never keep a secret. Eventually, time will reveal everything you’ve tried to hide, and you will be forced to face reality. The problem? The secret you are hiding is one that could mean your death: you’re a witch. Your whole life, your family has instilled in you the fear of being discovered, for discovery could mean you burn at the stake. This is the reality for Lettie, whose story is told in Kim Runyan’s Lettie: Season of the Witch.
Lenuta Juliette Romanov—Lettie—now in her crone years, spends much of her time reminiscing about the events of her childhood. After being forced to flee their village in Romania, Lettie and her family settle in Lviv, Ukraine; however, they must keep their witch heritage a secret—lest the villagers decide to forget all the times they’ve been helped and burn her family at the stake. Lettie learns the importance of this lesson after watching her fearless grandmother dragged from their home by a mob of angry villagers and ultimately burned at the stake; now Lettie and her mother are once again forced to start new lives in a foreign land. With the entire village willing to turn on her with little evidence, Lettie must navigate the horrifying realities of human nature…but can she stay off their radar for long?
Kim Runyan is a highly talented author when it comes to using human emotions to create an authentic narrative. Lettie is a character of pure spirit who wants nothing more than to be true to her heritage; however, the town’s people harbour a crippling fear of witchcraft and believe those who practice it are akin to the devil. Lettie’s story beautifully portrays the fear and distrust that develops when people hate you for who you are and highlights the burden of ignorance and intolerance on the part of Lettie’s peers; people saw a devil if only because they expected one to be there.
Lettie finds a few friends among enemies and each one showcases different aspects of Lettie’s personality. Terri is her first friend in the village, and one of the only people not intimidated by the witch rumours; in fact, she approached Lettie’s reputation with nothing but humour and acceptance. Lettie also befriends Mr. Domi and Norma, who live in adjacent houses. Mr. Domi highlights Lettie’s extreme loyalty and willingness to help friends—whether they know they need it or not—while Norma is the closest thing Lettie has to a family. Runyan uses these characters to bring further depth to Lettie’s story and character while beautifully showcasing the value of friendship in a hostile world.
Despite the bewitching narrative and realistic characters, there were a few things that prevented me from fully enjoying the story of Lettie: the first being the jumpy nature of the retelling. Lettie is recounting the events of her childhood, often making great leaps—both forwards and backwards—in her timeline; however, there was nothing to indicate where in the timeline the narrator had jumped to, leaving me lost on many occasions. Another thing is the presence of scenes that seemed out of place and added little to the story of Lettie’s life, rendering parts of the book sluggish and hard to get through. Lastly, this book could greatly benefit from the attention of a professional editor. The errors, ranging from missing or wrong words, misplaced or incorrect punctuation, and spellings that changed throughout the book, interrupted the flow of reading on many occasions and made some parts hard to understand.
Overall, Lettie: Season of the Witch will appeal to anyone who enjoys other fiction stories about family values, finding one’s place in society, and—of course—witchcraft. While the story of Lettie kept me engaged almost from start to finish, after considering the hard-to-follow timeline, some snail-paced scenes, and numerous errors, I rate this book 2 out of 4 stars. I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a heartwarming and witty story about a witch’s life and who doesn’t mind descriptions of torture and re-animated corpses.
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