Rebecca's Flame


140 pages
ISBN 1-896184-56-1
DDC jC813'.54





Reviewed by Darleen R. Golke

Darleen R. Golke is a high-school teacher-librarian in Winnipeg,


After his wife’s untimely death at the hands of a Christian mob, a
Jewish merchant moves his daughters, Rebecca and Sara, from Poland to
England and, finally, to Ireland—unfortunately at a time that
coincides with the potato famine (1845–47). Rebecca, 15, runs the
household, cooking, cleaning, and marketing; caring for her emotionally
damaged older sister; tending the market kiosk with the less expensive
goods (“ribbons, cheap bracelets, and other trinkets); and enduring
her father’s constant criticisms and bad temper. In spite of the
responsibilities, Rebecca realizes that their household fares far better
than the starving masses she sees daily.

When Rebecca meets Sean Woodlock, whose family is among the poverty
stricken, she anticipates her father’s disapproval and pursues the
relationship clandestinely. Sean’s situation deteriorates rapidly when
the death of his mother lands him with responsibility of looking after
three younger sisters. The Woodlocks’ landlord rids himself of
troublesome tenants by buying them passage to Lower Canada. Determined
to provide some travel comforts for Sean’s family, Rebecca brings
supplies and money to the ship, only to find herself trapped on the bark
Elizabeth and on her way to Canada.

Bridget, the youngest Woodlock sister, succumbs to Black Fever; the
others survive the interminable ocean voyage only to land in
Grosse-Оle’s quarantine facility. Although Rebecca earlier could not
“imagine forsaking Judaism for any reason,” she decides to convert
to Catholicism and marry Sean. (She had “come at last to believe that
religion was less important than faith in God,” and that “people
might love one another, live peacefully, and survive to see better
times.”) They settle in the village of St. Catherine de Fossambault
and by Christmas, 1848, while “life in Lower Canada could not be
called easy by any means,” it is “still a far cry from the misery
and famine” they left behind.

As in her acclaimed time-travel novel Candles (1998), Kositsky handles
harsh themes—terrorism, persecution, inequality, religious
intolerance, greed, poverty, disease, death—with sensitivity. She
allows Rebecca’s character to develop in response to the conflicts and
hardships of life in the 19th century. Recommended.


Kositsky, Lynne., “Rebecca's Flame,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 29, 2024,