Read Darkness Under the Water by Beth Kanell Online


This gripping, ultimately hopeful tale of an Abenaki-French Canadian girl in 1920s Vermont explores a dark episode in New England history.Just as the waters of a river roar through her town, Molly Ballou's life is riding on a swift current, where change comes faster than a spring flood. As a half - Abenaki Indian, half - French Canadian girl in Vermont, Molly is slowly reaThis gripping, ultimately hopeful tale of an Abenaki-French Canadian girl in 1920s Vermont explores a dark episode in New England history.Just as the waters of a river roar through her town, Molly Ballou's life is riding on a swift current, where change comes faster than a spring flood. As a half - Abenaki Indian, half - French Canadian girl in Vermont, Molly is slowly realizing that her family and others like them are being targeted by a governmental effort to rid the state of so-called "poor citizens." Not only is Molly facing discrimination, but she is also haunted by the ghostly presence of her drowned older sister and her grieving mother's evasive love. Curious about her family's traditions, Molly finds herself drawn to Henry, an Abenaki boy whose connection to the natural world provides solace when Molly's mother tragically loses a baby and grows increasingly ill. With Henry's support, sorrow gradually gives way to the joy of self-discovery — and allows Molly to look beyond hardship to a future of promise....

Title : Darkness Under the Water
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780763637194
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 320 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Darkness Under the Water Reviews

  • Judy
    2019-02-18 09:12

    At the heart of the story is a scene so brutal, so graphically described as to make the book unsuitable for its intended audience—or anyone else, for that matter. In this scene, Mama goes into early labor, two “state nurses” who just happen to be in the neighborhood hoist her onto the kitchen table and, in the process of delivering the baby, smother him and then cut out Mama’s womb. (The author has since denied that the baby is killed and Mama sterilized, but this is what Grandma and Molly see and interpret. In any event, like the rest of the novel, it’s a gory example of poorly written ambiguity.)As information about the eugenics movement, The Darkness Under the Water fails. The Vermont Eugenics Survey was not a state-run program, and there were no “state nurses” working for the Survey. The Survey was a public project; nothing about it was covert. Prior to 1931, eugenic sterilization was illegal; and after 1931, for nurses, even “state nurses,” to sterilize someone at home would have been illegal. Although the Abenaki peoples were hard hit by the eugenics movement, the Survey did not specifically target Indians because we were Indians, but rather because of our ways of living. Two-parent families such as the Ballous, who were employed full-time and whose children regularly attended school, were not targeted.As information about the Abenaki peoples, The Darkness Under the Water fails. The characters are invested with European-American cultural markers. Molly’s self-absorption is far more typical of modern American young adults than of a young woman of that time, place and family. It is beyond possibility that an Abenaki girl living in a small town in the Vermont woodlands at this time would be totally ignorant of the connection to the land. Me-Mere’s and Mama’s constant arguments remind one more of contemporary dysfunctional mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships than of traditional Abenaki ways of relating to each other. Henry Laporte, Molly’s soon-to-be boyfriend, is the perfect white woman’s fantasy Indian: handsome, mysterious, all-knowing, moving silently through the woods, appearing out of silence. Then he challenges Molly in overt ways about “how much” Indian she is. As a piece of literature, The Darkness Under the Water fails miserably. Molly’s dead five-year-old sister (who provides ridiculous ghost-water metaphors) returns to haunt her as a 21-year-old, alternately taunting her and lending advice on the care and handling of boyfriends. Clumsy allusions to assimilation, such as numerous references to the unbraiding and brushing of hair to “make it look pretty,” don’t work on any level. The dialogue is unbelievable, as are the thoughts and feelings of the characters. And the ending—Mama kills the nurse whom she “thought” sterilized her and killed her baby, Papa and Henry then dispose of the body, Mama then dies of infection from the botched surgery, and Molly plans to walk off into the sunset with her Indian “brave”—are reminiscent of a “reality” show that any TV network would turn down as being too sensational.Lastly, in an author’s note, Kanell writes that recently, “Vermont gave state recognition to the Abenaki people,” but that “their ‘disappearance’ for so many years has prevented the federal government from recognizing the tribe.” This is just not true. The Abenaki acknowledge many family bands throughout Vermont, but the state government recognizes us only as a “minority group,” with none of the rights of a tribal entity. With the exception of one of our family bands that attempted federal recognition, many of us have not felt safe enough to come out in an organized way in order to prove the continuity of our cohesive family bands to the federal government’s satisfaction.The Darkness Under the Water obscures, ignores, and even functions to belittle the deep and enduring wounds that continue to poison our families and communities today. It’s a stilted, cliché-ridden travesty, a melodrama marketed specifically to young people in Vermont—including Abenaki young people—who will probably be told this is how it was. Since young adult historical fiction is often used to supplement textbook versions of history, The Darkness Under the Water will probably turn up on Vermont reading lists, and will probably win awards. And many of our Abenaki people will probably continue to “hide in plain sight.” And the cycle of hatred and denial will continue.

  • Debbie
    2019-02-02 13:48

    I'm a professor in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois. I'm also a tribally enrolled woman from Nambe Pueblo. And, I'm a former schoolteacher. Native history, from one tribe to the next (there are over 500 that are federally recognized and over 200 state recognized), is important to the tribe(s), but it is important that it is told accurately.Ms. Kanell does a disservice to Native people whose lives were, and are, affected by sterilization programs. Instead of a sensitive portrayal of that period for the Abenaki, Ms. Kanell uses that program to "create a climate of fear" in which her characters live. The program and the lives of Abenaki people is sensationalized by Kanell. Readers will not come away knowing more about that program.The only thing this book is successful at is letting people know that Vermont had such a program. Reading her book misleads and misrepresents that program. My site "American Indians in Children's Literature" has extensive discussions of the book, including a review by two Abenaki women. This book, like THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PAJAMAS, is a waste of time and money. Update, January 25, 2009:There's been a lot of activity on my site about DARKNESS. Here's a link to one of the pages. At the very bottom of my page are links to all the discussions that have taken place at my site. http://americanindiansinchildrenslite...

  • Stacy Juba
    2019-02-06 10:04

    I found this book a compelling and fascinating look at family life in 1920s Vermont. Teenage Molly is victim to a government effort to rid the state of poor citizens like French Canadians and Abenaki. I wasn't aware of this period in American history, in which some states considered whether "unfit" people should stop having children. The history and New England setting were woven seamlessly into a young adult coming-of-age novel about a young woman questioning her roots and traditions as she is poised on the verge of her future. This is a good read for young adults, either on their own or as part of a school reading list. It's a great addition to a school library. A very unique novel, and interesting to adults as well as for a YA audience.

  • Elaine Dimopoulos
    2019-02-06 14:50

    I'm far too influenced by the controversy over this book on child_lit to be objective about it. I will say that the speaking dead sister device and the stereotype of Henry Laporte bothered me as much if not more than the ambiguous sterilization scene.

  • Whitney
    2019-01-30 07:02

    The Darkness Under the Water is a bildungsroman about a girl growing up in a small Vermont town in the 1930s. Her family's safety and way of life is threatened when a campaign to weed out "different" and "degenerate" people is started in Vermont. Both her family's claim of being "French Canadian" and their Abenaki background make them targets for the states Eugenics project.I found this an interesting read, since i definitely started the book with preconceived notions. With all the controversy surrounding it I was skeptical about whether it could be well written, as well as whether the inaccuracies I had seen cited took away from the story.The main controversy stems around a potential sterilization scene in the middle of the book. I don't find this scene ambiguous in the least. There is obviously a deception by the nurses when they tell Molly and Ma Mere that they are removing the afterbirth. The lie is highlighted when Molly sees the nurse with a knife. Any remaining ambiguity is removed when the grandmother specifically tells Molly that the nurses made it so Caro couldn't have babies anymore. Even later, it is also implied that the nurses smothered the baby they were helping to deliver. With all of the textual evidence to back it up, the criticisms of the inaccuracy of state nurses performing sterilizations seem justified.I would be more worried about all the inaccuracies and how they could be taken as truth by an uninformed reader if the book was well written, but its not. The plot seems to shift, or is even lost towards the middle of the novel. And while the book tries to focus on the racism in Vermont, everything seems to turn out okay for all involved. This could have been a successful coming of age story with out all the racial conjecture and inaccurate history.I would not recommend this book, I found it tedious to read, although it should be interesting to discuss.

  • Carolynne
    2019-02-18 15:01

    There are articles about this controversial book in the Winter 2009 edition of _Multicultural Review_, pp. 32-43, including a review by Doris Seale and Judy Dow, and a response by the author.The novel is the story of Molly Ballou, an Abenaki Indian living in Vermont at the time of the Vermont Eugenics project. Her mother gives birth to a stillborn child when government nurses are present. Kanell leaves it open whether the nurses are responsible for the baby's death, or the subsequent internal injuries that eventually kill Mrs. Ballou.Though this is the main plot of the novel, a sub plot sees Molly struggle with her place as Abenaki Indian in the community, and her promising friendship with an intriguing Abenaki boy, Henry. Finally, Molly is haunted by the spirit of her older sister, Gratia, who mysteriously drowned before Molly was born. Is she a ghost? Or is she a figment of Molly's adolescent, guilt-ridden, imagination? Kanell leaves these questions open.

  • Douglas Lloyd
    2019-01-26 12:16

    The book skews the reality of the Vermont Eugenics and does a disservice to the truth of such Eugenics Program's intentions and reality at the time the Program was in operation in New England. Much could be said about this book but Judy Dow and Nancy Gallagher have said it far better than I ever could have. Its a so-so book. As an Abenaki descendant on my mother's father's male ancestral lineage there in Vermont, whose ancestors were targeted by, harassed by the Vermont Eugenics woman Ms. Harriett Abbott all the way across three states here in New England I have to ask a simple question. Why is we have to have someone who is non-Abenaki tell the public our history as an Abenaki descendant people? Esspecially in 2008-2009 !! I wouldn't let my 12 year old niece read this book nor my 62 year old Aunt either.

  • E. Anderson
    2019-02-16 12:10

    In 1929 the Governor of Vermont has just made an announcement: his state is for “real” Yankees. Molly, a 16-year-old girl of Abenaki and French Canadian descent, finds herself suddenly the object of jeers in her small logging town, and immediately thinks that hiding her heritage is the best way to help her family. Her mother is pregnant, despite her age, and Molly is concerned for her health. On top of this, memories of her deceased sister have been haunting Molly, and a pair of nurses from the government have been skulking around town. But when she finds herself spending more and more time with an Abenaki boy, Molly discovers that there is more value to the old ways than she knew. This is a beautiful coming of age story against the backdrop of New England is a serious Newbery contender - one that you don’t want to miss.

  • K.a.
    2019-02-16 10:05

    Molly Ballou isn't what what everyone thinks she is. Her fammily is French Canadian - or, that's what they tell people. In reality, Molly is half Abenaki Indian in a time when the Vermont government has decided that the state should be reserved for "true" citizens only. If discrimination isn't enough for the young girl to deal with, there's also the looming uncertainty about her future as her best friend decides to earn her teaching certificate, her mother announces she's expecting another baby, and a man-made lake that will eventually cover her childhood home is in the process of being created. And to top it all off, Molly can't manage to rid herself of the memory of her drowned older sister and her haunting voice. Then Molly meets Henry -the only source of peace in the storm of Molly's life. She feels a connection with him not only because of their shared heritage, but because of the calmness he offers. With Henry by her side, Molly is finally able to grow through her hardship and look to her own future filled with promise and hope.I really wavered on my rating of this book. I really loved parts of it, but there were times when I didn't understand why the author felt the need to include certain things.(view spoiler)[I loved Molly's relationship with her friends, family, and especially Henry. I felt they were a good, strong match. Molly's struggle to grow up and find out her place in life was well-written and her voice was good.One part of the story I felt was unnecessary was the voice of Molly's dead older sister. Throughout the story, Molly is haunted by Gratia and she hears her voice all the time, telling her she isn't good enough. For a story that tried to be serious, the 'haunting' was a bit too much for me and it didn't advance the plot very much.Overall, I felt the book fell short of its mark. It tried to tell the story of the unfairness and harshness of the Eugenics movement in the early 20th century and the suffering that people of different races felt at the hands of the sterilization programs, but that wasn't the end result.When Molly's mother goes into labor early, Molly and her friend are the only ones present. Unsure what to do, the girls find two state nurses (who had been in the area for the purpose of tallying up people of different races) and ask for their help. They rush to the mother's rescue, doing their best to save her life while, unfortunately, delivering a still-born child.Throughout this scene, the nurses explain what they are doing to Molly and say that their drastic treatment is necessary to save her mother's life. As a reader, we, of course, believe them. Though they were painted as sort-of villains earlier in the story, now they are given a huge amount of authority and they are seen as heroes for coming to the mother's rescue. Their word is presented as fact to the reader and their actions and motives aren't questioned by the narrator.Later in the book, the nurses' treatments are called into question by the grandmother. Molly's mother is sick with childbed fever and the grandmother charges herself with nursing her back to health. Grandmother tells Molly that it was the nurses' fault that her mother is sick. She says that they mistreated her and "cut her up inside" to prevent her from having more children. And, what's more, she says that the nurses smothered the baby who had actually been born alive. Of course Molly believes her grandmother, but I was left confused.Are Grandmother's accusations true? What proof does she have? While she is skilled with medicine, she isn't a doctor and the nurses, with their credentials, are painted with much more knowledge and authority. More reasons in favor of the nurses are given than against them. They say that they are saving the mother's life by going through with their treatment. The baby was born too early in the first place, so it's less likely that it would have been born alive. The mother was older and her husband later admits that she was too old to have another child. The claims against the nurses all seem to stem from the Grandmother and are accepted by nearly everybody without question and it feels like the author assumes the reader will, too. While they are perfectly logical (the nurses were part of the Eugenics Program, after all), they aren't supported.In the end, I felt confused and unsure who to believe. I felt for both sides. In all, I felt that the story was too ambiguous to make a strong point. (hide spoiler)]So, in the end I gave it two stars. There were good parts, but it wasn't my favorite. In fact, I started reading it, stopped halfway through, and then came back a month later to finish it. I feel like that says it all.

  • Jennifer
    2019-02-14 13:13

    2.5 stars This is a good book if you like Little House on the Prairie type books (which I honestly, found a little boring then and apparently now). It has that same kind of slow, daily life, pacing for much of the book. It is set in VT during the depression and centers around the coming of age of a 16 year old life of a girl who is part French Canadian but mostly Abenaki. This is set during the depression and much of the action (what there is) centers around the VT eugenics program.After reading the book I discovered that there is a lot of controversy about how accurately it portrays both the history of the VT Eugenics program and the Abenaki people. Some of which seems founded to me the love interest is totally a "noble savage" stereotype but also some that seems unfair. People are complaining that a real Abenaki tell their story which makes sense to me but that is only part of what this book is about. It is also about growing into womanhood, first love, friendship, racial and religious intolerance, dealing with the reality of the depression (in the form of a damn being built that eventually creates a lake that covers their house), family dynamics, and the illness and death of a parent.That said some of this is done well and some is less successful. The voice of the dead older sister is annoying, sometimes dialogue is natural and sometimes it is totally stilted, and frankly for all the excitement in the plot it is actually pretty slow. I would have suggested it for historical fiction readers as it is different then many historical fiction books I have read but with all the controversy around the accuracy of the historical pieces I am not sure now. It does have a great cover, and tells a unique history so I guess I am saying it has some good points but overall is not super successful at anything it set out to do.

  • Tim
    2019-02-06 13:12

    Beth Kanell's The Darkness Under the Water is the coming of age story of Molly Ballou, an Abenaki teenager living in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont in the 1920's, just as the dams were being put in to provide hydroelectric power. I was motivated to read this book because I know and admire Beth as a writer, I have worked in St. Johnsbury for the past 25 summers and know the Northeast Kingdom, and because I knew little about the Vermont Eugenics Project. What made this book so excellent was that it is not a polemic or issue book, despite the historical background. Instead, Molly's first person account is a loving, innocent, and inspiring account of what life in the 1920's meant to a young girl. Her challenges were both universal (young love, hard work, accepting authority) and situational (being Abenaki in Vermont, giving up a home to the dam's arrrival). What Beth Kanell is able to do as a writer is to weave those situational challenges into the universal narrative so that novel as a whole develops rich symbolism and becomes uplifting and cathartic for the reader. The Darkness Under the Water is a very successful novel, and I will be recommending it to my students at Waring School, especially to the Core - Group 1 students who travel to Canada through Vermont.

  • Kimberly
    2019-02-05 08:58

    I saw this book on the new arrivals shelf in the young adult section of my local library and thought that it seemed interesting, so I picked it up. On the whole, I liked the story. I didn't realize there was so much controversy surrounding this book, but after reading some of the reviews on this site, I can see that there are many people out there who did not appreciate the author's efforts. I don't know the background of the eugenics project in Vermont and I don't know much about the Abenaki people, but I do know there were eugenics projects in other parts of the country, especially in regards to deaf people and other people with disabilities, so it's not very hard to believe that such a program could have been carried out. I did find it hard to believe that a "state nurse" would have carried out a sterilization surgery on her own, without a doctor present, and the later death of said nurse and subsequent cover-up was a little too contrived, as well.

  • Nicole (Reading Books With Coffee)
    2019-02-10 07:10

    As far as a novel about a state-run eugenics program that targets the Abernaki tribe, it utterly failed. Not only did the author not really talk about either, it's also hard to see this being aimed at young adults. There was one scene in particular, where Molly's mom goes into early labor, and it was more detailed than it really needed to be. There's also the fact that Molly and her grandma believe that Molly's mom was sterlized so that she can't have any more children. It's also implied that the nurses who are in town for the eugenics project smothered the baby. Another thing that bothered me was the fact that Molly's dead older sister Gratia talked to her somewhat frequently. It got annoying, and it served no purpose whatsoever. Plus, it was really boring, and the characters didn't stand out. I couldn't relate to them, or to what was happening. It gets a 1 out of 5.

  • Margaret
    2019-02-03 08:52

    I really enjoyed this book. The emotions through the entire book was like a roller coaster ride! I thought the author did a nice job tying the romance into the plot, it wasn't the main part but it wasn't just set off to the side either. This book was set in Waterford, VT. I feel like it's really awesome to have a book set in a town so close! I also learned that Beth Kanell lives in Vermont! So cool! Also, 'The Spare Room' author lives in Vermont. I really like reading author's books from Vermont because I can really relate. This book even mentioned St.Johnsbury and the movie theater there! I would rate this book 4.5 stars! This book was outstanding!

  • Vikki
    2019-02-17 11:00

    The Darkness Under the Water by Beth Kanell is a young adult book that the story takes place in Waterford, Delaware in the 1920s. The story centers around Molly Ballou and her family who are of Abenaki descent. This is a time when the government is trying to rid the state of "poor citizens" like French Canadians and the Abenaki tribe. I really enjoyed this book which was just very good fiction.

  • Vicki
    2019-01-19 14:58

    A look at a dark time in the state of Vermont where it was decreed to get rid of the poor citizens/racial discrimination. This story focuses on Molly Ballou life as she finishes school, her parents are expecting another baby, their town will be effected by a dam that is being built and Molly's family will have to move to a different house. Also Molly finds first love. This is a very dark book, with much sadness about life. Good

  • Lisa Blouch
    2019-01-31 11:51

    Very sweet young adult book set in 1930s Vermont. About the eugenics projects proposed (and often undertaken) at that sad time in U.S. history. Still, a hopeful and sort of old fashioned teenage read. Some information about Abenaki heritage and folklore.

  • Anna
    2019-01-31 15:09

    I love Henry Laporte!!! I adore how the author makes it so subtle all the way through the book about their relationship but in the end it doesn't matter because they love each other and Henry wants to have babies with her!!! :D

  • Holly
    2019-01-23 06:49

    I was looking forward to reading this, because I love historical fiction, but this one kind of fell flat. It was ok, but not something I would recommend.

  • Alana Stephenson
    2019-02-07 07:07

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  • Venus
    2019-02-12 12:58

    Excellent book about the Abernaki tribe in Maine. Heartwrenching and beautifully written, fans of historical fiction will drink this one down.

  • Lin
    2019-01-27 08:07

    Not one of his best, but not bad, either. Just not a whole lot to it.

  • Lisa
    2019-02-14 09:00

    Interesting story, but culturally inaccurate which took away most of the appeal of the story.

  • Elizabeth
    2019-02-04 09:04

    This book had so many twists and turns but got all wrapped up nicely

  • Jenny Land
    2019-02-16 15:09

    I loved this, and was so sorry when it ended! Super historical novel set here in St J.