Miss Lizzie

Satterthwait, Walter. Miss Lizzie. New York: International Polygonics, Ltd. 2000.

Reason read: Lizzie Borden was born in July; read in her honor.

Everyone remembers the rhyme about Lizzie Borden giving her parents a certain number of whacks. Everyone also knows she was found not guilty. But! She wasn’t found innocent either. So what happens when, thirty years later, another parent is found murdered in the exact same way and Lizzie just happens to be the neighbor living right next door? Coincidence? Amanda Burden is a teenager of thirteen and has befriended Miss Borden who has lived alone all this time. This is Amanda’s story.
Satterthwait keeps the tension tight in this clever whodunit. Amanda believes in Miss Lizzie’s innocence and yet Satterthwait is careful to leave a little room for doubt.
There were several things I found unusual about this plot. For starters, Amanda is, as I said, only thirteen years old and yet her father leaves Amanda with Miss Lizzie while he conducts business (and an affair) in Boston. Amanda has been keeping her friendship with Miss Lizzie a secret, so how or why would Mr. Burden trust his only daughter to the care of a woman who may or may not have murdered her parents? I don’t think it ruins the plot to say that I was even further confused when it was revealed Amanda’s father left his daughter to be the one to discover her stepmother’s body hacked to death. Who does that?

Quotes to quote, “Families are held together as much by what they do not say as by what they do” (p 86), and “Decades can pass sometimes, and even entire lives, before we forgive our parents their humanity” (p 316).

Author fact: Satterthwait has a sense of humor. His Amazon page says he was raised by wolverines because the wolves wouldn’t take him.

Nancy said: Miss Lizzie was one of the best biographical novels she’s read (Book Lust, p 37).

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Biographical Novels” (p 37). As an aside, this could also be in the More Book Lust chapter called “Men Channeling Women” (p 166).

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