The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

FREEMAN by Leonard Pitts Jr.

Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.Publisher:  Agate Bolden
Date Released:  May 2012
Pages:  432

About the Book:  Freeman, the new novel by Leonard Pitts, Jr., takes place in the first few months following the Confederate surrender and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Upon learning of Lee's surrender, Sam--a runaway slave who once worked for the Union Army--decides to leave his safe haven in Philadelphia and set out on foot to return to the war-torn South. What compels him on this almost-suicidal course is the desire to find his wife, the mother of his only child, whom he and their son left behind 15 years earlier on the Mississippi farm to which they all "belonged."

At the same time, Sam's wife, Tilda, is being forced to walk at gunpoint with her owner and two of his other slaves from the charred remains of his Mississippi farm into Arkansas, in search of an undefined place that would still respect his entitlements as slaveowner and Confederate officer. 

The book's third main character, Prudence, is a fearless, headstrong white woman of means who leaves her Boston home for Buford, Mississippi, to start a school for the former bondsmen, and thus honor her father’s dying wish.

At bottom, Freeman is a love story--sweeping, generous, brutal, compassionate, patient--about the feelings people were determined to honor, despite the enormous constraints of the times. It is this aspect of the book that should ensure it a strong, vocal, core audience of African-American women, who will help propel its likely critical acclaim to a wider audience. At the same time, this book addresses several themes that are still hotly debated today, some 145 years after the official end of the Civil War. Like Cold Mountain, Freemanilluminates the times and places it describes from a fresh perspective, with stunning results. It has the potential to become a classic addition to the literature dealing with this period. Few other novels so powerfully capture the pathos and possibility of the era particularly as it reflects the ordeal of the black slaves grappling with the promise--and the terror--of their new status as free men and women.

Wanda's Review:  Although the civil war has ended, the wounds run deep in the South. The Negroes are free, but left to fend for themselves in a hostile and resentful land. They are rootless, homeless, wandering about, looking for their families, trying to get back that which can never be retrieved.

This gifted writer weaves three stories together about Sam, Tilda and Prudence who are living in the aftermath of the civil war, an unforgettable period of history.

Sam, a former Union soldier, works at the Library of Philadelphia. His voice is free from any trace of Negro dialect and his enunciation is perfect. He likes using big words on people who presume to treat him less than he is just because he is a Negro. It has been fifteen years since Sam has seen his wife, Tilda. He has no idea if she is still alive, but is determined to find her. He sets out on foot to Mississippi – until just recently, enemy territory. He encounters many problems along the way, but nothing deters him as he trudges on. Will love endure for Sam and Tilda?

Prudence Kent, a widow living in Boston, is a spirited, but feisty woman. She hates slavery and feels it her duty to help civilize the Negro race, to instruct them to the limits of their abilities.

Bonnie, a daughter of a Negro slave, was brought to Boston by Prudence’s father many years earlier and raised with Prudence – growing up as sisters.

And so — Prudence, a woman with a Yankee accent, is traveling with Bonnie, a Negro, into the South to set up a school for the Negroes. Prudence carries with her the strong spirits of her father and late husband. Prudence believes the Negroes should be treated as equals, but the people in Buford, Mississippi believe she is sowing confusion and discontent and consequences will follow. She meets up with powerful people who do not want her interference. They have lost their way of life and are still resisting the Negro as their equal. The Negroes should still be performing their natural function – to serve their white superiors.

You will really disappear into another place and time – a very sad time in our history. This is a story with a rich blend of history, romance, and drama, and I was totally captivated.   It's been awhile back that I read this book, but it's a storyline that stays with you.  An enthralling read! I highly recommend. 5 stars

About the Author - Leonard Pitts Jr.  
Leonard Pitts, Jr., is an award-winning columnist and the author of the novel Before I Forget; the collection Forward From this Moment: Selected Columns, 1994–2009, and Becoming Dad: Black Men and the Journey to Fatherhood.

Sean Crisden is a multitalented actor and an AudioFile Earphones Award–winning narrator who has recorded audiobooks in almost every genre, from science fiction to romance. He has also voiced characters in numerous video games and appeared in many commercials and films, including The Last Airbender.