Wednesday, February 6, 2013

#BookReview: Freeman - Leonard Pitts, Jr.

How far would you walk to be reunited with your loved one? Following the end of slavery, countless men and women set off across the country looking for mothers, fathers, husband, wives, sisters, brothers and children.  Because slaves were given the last names of their owners, it was often difficult for families to be reunited, especially if they didn't know to what plantation and where their loved ones had been sold.

Was this what they were to be now?  Once a slave people, now a wandering people, rootless and itinerant, searching for one another and for connections that used to be.  It was as if forever incomplete was the Negro's awful destiny.

When Sam Freeman sets out from Philadelphia to find the love of his life, all he knows is that when he last saw her, she was living on a plantation in Mississippi.  Unsure of whether the 15 years of no contact have softened her heart, Sam is determined to find her if it's the last thing he does.  Having lived a number of years on a plantation where the mistress taught and encouraged the slaves to read, Sam is an educated man, working at a library in the north, but such an education can be detrimental to a person that's forgotten the rules of the south.

Tilda was once a proud woman, but the years have been unkind to her.  Losing her son and her husband, then being sold to a master that treats her more like chattel than a human, has worn her down.  Even with the emancipation of slaves, she continues on with her master because she's unsure of where to go and what life holds for her.  Given a chance to run, she doesn't, and the shame eats away at her.

A daughter of white privilege, Boston and an abolitionist, Prudence Cafferty Kent plans to keep the promise she made to her father to open a school for the recently freed slaves in Buford, Mississippi.  And while that may be noble, it's also self-serving.  Prudence asks Bonnie, a free woman that has grown up with Prudence and is so close to her that they call themselves sisters, to go with her.  And this is where I began to hate Prudence.  You want to fulfill your father's mission, fine.  You want to take someone out of their comfortable environment and subject them to a life where people that look like her are treated inhumanely and expect her to just deal with it? Ma'am, tuck your privilege all the way in.

I loved, loved, LOVED Sam's story line.  I tolerated Tilda's, because though I couldn't understand why she behaved the way she did, I could empathize. But Prudence? Ugh.  She danced all over my nerves on more than one occasion.  At the same time, I applaud Pitts for adding her story line because it was certainly different from anything I've read in any other works of historical fiction set during this era.  And obviously I got over my dislike of Prudence enough to give the book five purple armchairs.







432pp
Published: May 2012

Theme: I Will Get There by Boyz II Men
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