Lies in the Dust, a graphic novel by Jakob Crane and Timothy Decker, provides a 128-page glimpse into the morals, motives, and horrors surrounding the 1692 Salem Witch Trials. Through poignant dialogue, bleak illustrations, and snippets of historical documents, Crane and Decker encapsulate the trials as experienced by one Salem girl: Ann Putnam, the only “victim” to ever apologize for her false accusations. Spanning 1692 to 1706, Lies in the Dust portrays Ann as a thirteen-year-old girl, condemning dozens of “witches” to die, and again as a twenty-seven-year-old woman, struggling to provide for her family. Yet, even as she becomes a mother to her nine orphaned siblings, Ann can not silence her childhood guilt. Re-imagining Ann’s experience of the Salem Witch Trials, Lies in the Dust enlivens a grim chapter of our nation’s history with a fresh new perspective and format.
By presenting Ann’s story as a graphic novel, Crane and Decker reinvent the familiar topic of the Salem Witch Trials. Though this creative format imbues a dreary subject with much-needed accessibility, a conventional novel may have better conveyed Ann’s psychological anguish; because graphic novels rely almost entirely on illustrations and speech bubbles, Ann’s internal struggle— the book’s supposed focus— never emerged as the central plot point. While Lies in the Dust does capture Ann’s experience of the trials with impressive richness and depth, the book lacks a well-defined plot arc. Decker’s artwork, however, brilliantly echo's the book’s themes: the character’s pupiless eyes reflect Salem’s blindness to the trials’ dubious morality, while the homogenous nature of the town's residents symbolizes the mass hysteria and mob mentality that blinded so many to the witch trials’ horrors. Though Lies in the Dust lacks a centralized story arc, the book’s eloquent dialogue and stark illustrations immerse readers in the Salem Witch Trials, and this graphic novel invigorates an infamous topic with an intriguing new perspective.