Book Reviews

Chocolate for the poor

Eloquent Portrait of a Grim Tale

Chocolate For The Poor is based on the true story about an incestuous rape which took place in Massachusetts in 1805. The victim was 13 year old Betsy Wheeler, and the perpetrator, her father Ephraim. Ephraim Wheeler was arrested for his crime, and found guilty by a prejudiced jury of known enemies. It was a controversial conviction that precipitates political intrigue throughout the State. In novelizing this historical event, author David Beasley (a Hamilton-born descendant of the same Beasley family who owned the property of Dundurn Castle before Sir Allan MacNab) has written a page turning meditation that queries political expediency, religious fanaticism, superstition, fate, rage and redemption. In his violent opening chapter, the beating of Wheeler's wife Harriette and the raping of his daughter Betsy lay the ground work for one of his main themes that the past brutalization of one person inevitably leads to a continuation of such acts in the future. Wheeler had been a victim of physical and psychological abuse during his own childhood. A second theme which is presented in this novel, is the notion of collective guilt. He questions society's culpability in the criminal acts of disreputable individuals like Ephraim Wheeler can also be victims due to society's indifference to their plight. Beasley is a crisp, economical writer who paints in pictures with short phrases. Chocolate For The Poor is an entertaining read that amounts to more than just candy for the brain (no pun intended.) With its gripping story and interesting cast of colourful characters, it is a well-written novel which addresses issues as relevant today as they were in 1805

reviewed by Gord Jackson - View



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