An empty bottle and a dream. A deserted beach. A busy port. Distant from each other, harboring secrets, all connected.
Agnes May (“Bones”), Bess, and Mary Margaret never meet, but they are linked by the bottle Bones, a slave girl, throws into a river, taking with it her name, a heart carved from a peach pit, and her dream of freedom someday. Later, Lady Bess finds it on a beach off England. She takes the peach pit heart but adds a cross her mother (now dead) had always wanted her have. She sends it with a boy she hopes to save from her scheming stepmother’s evil plans, and it’s lost in the ocean as he escapes, only to reappear in Boston, where Mary Margaret finds it on a walk with her father. The necklace will help save her sister and then will find its way back to Lady Bess.
Jane Smolik intertwines the three girls’ stories well, weaving in details of daily life and their dreams of freedom. Agnes May has secretly learned to read and dreams first of finding her father and later of going North to freedom. Lady Bess dreams of freedom, too, but it’s the freedom to make her own choices about her life, to become an explorer, and to make a difference in the world. Mary Margaret’s freedom will come by way of education and perhaps being able to use her skill as a storyteller and writer to make something of her life beyond what’s expected of a poor Irish immigrant girl.
There’s food for thought in the story and in the notes, too. Have things changed so much for girls around the world today? We’re fortunate to have more choices about many things in wealthier countries, but the same can’t be said everywhere. Slavery still exists, as does poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and the burden of expectations, good or bad. This book could be a springboard for other discussions, as well as a way to talk about how African-Americans, immigrants and women are portrayed in literature with young readers.
Currents by Jane Peterlik Smolik