Death has taken on many forms in literature, from a spectator of the human world in Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief to Charles Dicken’s “Ghost of Christmas Future”. There are images of death that even children are familiar with—Jack the Ripper, for example. But in her book Keturah and Lord Death, Martine Leavitt presents a new personage for the thing that all men fear the most. In Keturah and Lord Death, Death is a lord, a young man, cold, but not without feeling. He comes unaggressively to take people from this life into the next, and one day he comes for a girl named Keturah.
Keturah is sixteen years old and lives with her grandmother in a small village. She is kind and caring, a gifted storyteller with humble dreams—a chance to find true love and raise a child of her own in a small cottage to call her home. Her future plans, however simple, become unattainable when she wanders into the forest following a special hart and becomes lost. Death comes for her, and even Keturah, who has been no stranger to death having lost her parents and grandfather, is surprised to find that Death is a handsome young man. But despite her fear of Death, Keturah is not ready to give up her simple dream of finding true love, and she uses her gift of storytelling to barter for one more day. Keturah makes an agreement with Death. She has one day to find her true love, otherwise she must go with him and be his bride. By the next night, she must return with her true love and an ending to the story she began for Death.
Keturah returns to her village and enlists the help of two of her friends to find her true love. From there, Leavitt weaves a tale full of numerous, vibrant characters, colorful writing, a fantastical supernatural element, and a surprise ending. Keturah and Lord Death is not a long book, but in the span of only a couple hundred pages, Leavitt tells an original, deep but entertaining story of romance and fantasy. One of the most wonderful things about Leavitt’s book is the writing. The story reads like a fairy tale, a la Hans Christian Andersen or some other writer from long ago. The story is quick and to the point, direct and subtle at the same time. With fewer pages than most authors, Leavitt creates a diverse and lively cast of characters. The story flows flawlessly from one scene to the next, and readers are caught up in the plot, eager for Keturah to finish her story for Death and for her to find her true love. Also like a fairy tale, Leavitt’s book is not moralizing, but its message is pure and true.
Keturah is kind, merciful, honest, and loving, as is her story. This book will leave readers wanting for nothing—a delightfully unexpected read. Leavitt’s masterful writing and characters transport the reader into a world of romance, the supernatural, adventure, and true love. This is the stuff Disney movies are made of.