Title - Cover Her Body
Author - Eleanor Sullivan
Reviewer - Fran Lewis
Leaving her home Adelaide to go to her favorite spot by the river she never expect to come upon the scene that would change not only her life but many others. A vision, a body in the water that was all tangled up come into view and she, although fearful of the water Adelaide went in to bring the body to safety hoping the person would be alive. What she did find and uncover was a young girl, Johanna Applegate, who was dead and the reaction of the people and those in charge was anything but compassionate. Belonging to the Separatists she knew she had broken the rules by going out by herself. The head demanded she prepare the body and the burial happen right away. Telling her parents would be the job of this one man and the way they would be told his doing too. But, the reason for her death has yet to be revealed as there is much more that remains to be seen. Adelaide is a young midwife who works in a small village called Zoar. The year is 1833. The Separatists run this village and the death of young Johanna has been deemed an accident but Adelaide thinks otherwise. She thinks it is murder. Found dead in the river she relates what she saw but the Zoarists, a group of Germans who came to America to escape religious persecution formed a communal society and worked for the state of Ohio digging canals.
Realizing from the onset that Johanna did not drown, Adelaide will stop at nothing to learn the truth and why she was killed. The Separatists are not too thrilled with her and Adelaide is on a quest to find her killer. But, first she would have to convince her mother that something was wrong with her death and keep Gerda, her sister from asking too many questions. Gerda, cold hearted, unfeeling and not wanting Johanna to be buried in fine clothes or prepared properly, seemed to not care that her niece was gone. The burial scene bone chilling and upsetting if not cold. The Separatists never believed in killing and refused to accept that her death was anything but an accident. As Adelaide was preparing the body for burial, Gerda, the sister of the teen’s mother appeared ambivalent, coldhearted and annoyed that any special care was being taken to bury the girl with dignity and love. During the cleansing of the body Adelaide makes a startling discovery and feels that she might have caused the death of this young teen with an herbal remedy she gave her. In order to follow their procedure she informs their leader of her findings and her thoughts about the teen’s death. But, before she speaks with a close friend who instructs her to do exactly that, report what she thinks. However, the end result is a community meeting that goes in a direction that she predicted would happen but not the one anyone would really want. Openly accused by one of the members of causing her death and his wife’s grief losing her sister, Adelaide is in danger of being an outcast and many more.
The incident remains an accident according the leader and no more is to be said or done about it. But, Adelaide will not quit until she finds answers for the dead teen. As the author allows the reader to get to know Johanna you hear from many characters including her sister, Brigit that she was carefree, fun loving and rarely did a day’s work. She broke the rule and lived life her way. Added into the story is a doctor who might cause more damage to his patients than her simple herbal remedies, one woman named Gerda who was in charge of the girl’s infirmary and whose actions were bordered on abusive and got away with it.
Rumors were flying, more accusations made and Adelaide was more determined to learn the truth about Johanna’s death and about her own people. Martin wanted to outlaw marriage and Simon wanted to take the seat on the trustees away from Nathan. Their heritage questioned, a preacher who called them all sinners and some who thought his ideals right and others who realized he was creating dissension. Who would win out? Who really killed Johanna and why? Why did Gerda threaten Adelaide and claim she would wind up like Johanna?
But, thinks start to heat up for not just Adelaide but for her community too as a Constable is sent for to investigate the death of the teen and her workroom is destroyed by an intruder and Adelaide is even more determined to find out why. Jakob was in love with Johanna. Martin, Gerda, Simon, August and many others are on her list of suspects. I cannot tell you why. Some men not allowing her to tend to their wives and children others ignoring what the doctor states about her. Many realizing his ways are wrong and will only hurt the patient. Some members of the community thinking changes are necessary in more ways than just medical care.
An inquest into the death would change things for Adelaide and bring to light what she thinks happened of she might wind up in deeper trouble for starting the investigation on her own. The ending is powerful and what happens is not going to be divulged since the Separatists : that is Josef and Adelaide made me promise not to divulge what they learned and the person who might have committed the crime. Will Benjamin support her or will she be shunned? The author brings to light the various herbal remedies used during this time and of course the controversy of some of the ways of a traditional doctor that many would question even today. Added to the plot is whether they election results in abolishing marriage, insisting on celibacy and which males will rule and prevail at the end as trustees. Will Adelaide’s past mistake hinder her in the present and will the answers help her move on? This is one thought provoking book where women are told to keep their thoughts to themselves, have a vote but some men disagree and want to take it away and the end result: Let’s hope the author brings Adelaide back for more. Replete in history and characters that are very well defined and a plot that will keep the reader riveted to the printed page from start to finish.