As with most good biographies, The Peabody Sisters of Salem goes beyond its specific subject matter and serves as a broader history text. The intertwining of lives and events as they shape history is an important aspect of biography, and Tharp’s book excels in this regard. It is difficult to overstate the importance of nineteenth century New England in American literature, and this book is a superior resource for information about that period. In one sense, Tharp’s book is also a study of women and their roles in the society of the time. Although women are shown to be not without influence, they still lived lives under various cultural and societal restrictions. Yet the Peabody sisters, among others, were able to rise above many of those barriers.
Tharp’s book, however, is more than only a resource text. With an engaging style and an acute sense of details that illuminate human emotions, the text is also interesting reading. The personages become real as they handle relationships with their parents and their siblings. They have romance, joys, and sorrows in their lives, and they often have to be concerned with their financial condition. They overcome obstacles and experience success, but they also suffer failures. Ultimately, they have the spirit to prevail. It could be that Tharp’s book is more suited to older teenagers because of the amount of material presented, but more sophisticated younger readers may be rewarded with the challenge of learning the lessons of history that Tharp teaches.