Study Guide

A Break With Charity Family

By Ann Rinaldi

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Mostly I thought of Mama. And when I first sat here, with my three-year-old boy beside me and the baby in my arms, it was Mama's face I saw, Mama's voice I heard, like it was yesterday. (Prologue.5)

Susanna and her mom were super close. Throughout the whole book, we hear oodles of amazing things about Mama English, and Susanna's memories of her mom aren't about to fade anytime soon. Now that Susanna is a mom herself, how do you think this affects her concept of family?

Chapter 1

I was, after all, Susanna English, and our family had never needed anyone's help to gain entrance anywhere. (1.62)

Susanna sure is proud of her family. Just check out her tone: she sounds sure as can be that her family name will get her what she wants. She's not delusional for thinking this either—the English family has pretty great social standing in Salem. They live in a big house and have servants, and that means Susanna can name-drop her parents all over town. So she figures her family gets her on the VIP list to get in to see Tituba.

Chapter 7
Mary English (a.k.a. Mama E)

"Ann Putnam and her mother are trouble," Mama said grimly. "Sometimes I find it difficult to believe that Joseph Putnam is related to his brother, husband of the elder Ann. That woman has devoted her life to making others miserable. And her husband has allowed it. I don't know what's afflicting the daughter, but I'll wager the mother's had a hand in it." (7.45)

Looks like family isn't always sugar and spice and everything nice. When it comes to the Ann Putnams of the world, this mother daughter duo is pure evil—even Mama English thinks so. So how do you think Joseph Putnam turned out so great? Does the book give you any clues as to why these various Putnams go down such different paths?

Chapter 8

But there was some undercurrent of understanding between this mother and daughter that had more to do with evil than with love. I was sensible of that immediately. It was as if these two moved together through dark and swirling waters toward some whirlpool they could not avoid. And would not think of avoiding. (8.4)

The two Ann Putnams give us the heebie-jeebies big time. This mother-daughter duo has evil in the bag, and they are close as can be, but in a way that totally freaks Susanna out. And us, too. Do you think there's anything redeeming in this mother-daughter tag team? Are there ways in which they're not totally evil like Susanna thinks?

Chapter 12

"I honor my father, Susanna. But I tremble to see him denouncing our friends and neighbors. We'll not have a friend left when this business is done. I told him so, and we argued fiercely. I am afraid a rift is coming between us that will never heal." (12.52)

Johnathan and his dad have gotten into a huge fight. You see, Mr. Hathorne believes in witches, but now Johnathan knows that his dad is bonkers—yet even with all this fighting, Johnathan still says that he honors his pops. Well now that's a bundle of conflicting emotions. So Johnathan disagrees with his dad enough to have a screaming match, but he also honors him too. What does it mean for Johnathan to honor his dad when he disagrees with him?

Chapter 14

As I sat at our table, Tituba's dour words receded in my mind. I felt only happiness while in the bosom of my family. Father was full of news from Boston, having just visited his shipyard there. Mary was happily awaiting Thomas Hitchbourne. She had confided to me earlier that he was going to ask our father for her hand this evening.

Apparently she had already told Mama, also, for there were special cakes set out in the company room with the claret for Thomas's arrival. […]

When Thomas and Father emerged from the library, Father's face was wreathed in smiles. "Mary, we have a new member of the family," he said. "Or soon will have." (14.14-16)

Even with all the witch hullaballoo going on in Salem, Susanna still finds the time to remember that her family rocks. Sure her mom gets arrested for being a witch right after this scene, so it's not all cake and marriage proposals around here, but for a brief little period, Susanna's family makes her seriously happy. Just take a look at her tone. It's almost as if you can see her smiling at the memory. And that has us feeling all warm and fuzzy inside.

Chapter 15

After a few moments, Mama raised her head. "One of the things you will someday learn, daughters," she said to me, "is that parents are never sure if certain decisions we make concerning our children are right." (15.76)

Mama English knows that her hubby is about to be arrested, so they've made plans for the future. She sounds pretty confident, but that doesn't mean she's not a little nervous, too—after all, she can't predict her family's future. What do you think about Mama E's uncertainty here? How do you think her honesty affects her kiddos?

Chapter 16

I was most pleased, of course, to discover that my original impressions of Joseph Putnam had been correct. He was not only a mixture of sober strength and boyish eagerness, but he was gentle with his wife and baby, caring of his neighbors, and quick to enjoy a good joke. He behaved toward us in the manner of an older brother. Elizabeth, meanwhile, took the role of older sister, glad to have two females about who were not servants and in whom she could confide her secret joys and fears. (16.8)

Looks like blood isn't the only thing that makes families in this book. When Susanna and Mary go to live with Joseph and Elizabeth Putnam, they're super sad not to be with their parents, but the Putnams become a new big bro and big sis to these girls, which is pretty cool. And since Susanna's big bro William has been gone for a long time, we're thinking she's especially stoked to have a new brotherly figure in her life.

Chapter 23

I ran. I saw recognition come upon William's face. The pipe came out of his mouth. The eyes, so accustomed to searching the sea's horizon for pirate ships, squinted in the bright sun. "Susanna?" he asked. "Is it you?"

"Oh, William!" And I ran to him. He set down his bags and swooped me up in his strong arms. (23.106-107)

Susanna has waited forever for her big bro to come home, so when he gets back to Salem, you can bet that she's excited as all get-out. It's pretty interesting that this bro and sis haven't talked in forever—unfortunately there were no cell phones back in the day, so William couldn't text Susanna from the ship to say what's up or send a selfie—which means they haven't had one-on-one communication for ages. And there's no way for them to know what the other looks like now that they've both grown up. What do you think of this reunion?


I feel my babe in my arms. I am mindful of baby Johnathan's sturdy little body beside me. And I know that Ann has no husband or child. God has been good to me, after all. (Epilogue.47)

Poor Susanna has lost her mom, but she also has a new growing family—she and Johnathan have had two cute kiddos, and Susanna knows she's super lucky. But there's one gal who's not so lucky in this book and that's Ann. Poor Ann Putnam is all alone since her parents are dead and she never got hitched. This loneliness has Susanna even more thankful that she's got a special little family of her own.

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