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“Moments after Lisbeth is born, she’s taken from her mother and handed over to an enslaved wet nurse, Mattie, a young mother separated from her own infant son in order to care for her tiny charge. Thus begins an intense relationship that will shape both of their lives for decades to come. Though Lisbeth leads a life of privilege, she finds nothing but loneliness in the company of her overwhelmed mother and her distant, slave-owning father. As she grows older, Mattie becomes more like family to Lisbeth than her own kin and the girl’s visits to the slaves’ quarters—and their lively and loving community—bring them closer together than ever. But can two women in such disparate circumstances form a bond like theirs without consequence? This deeply moving tale of unlikely love traces the journey of these very different women as each searches for freedom and dignity.”
Sounds captivating right? Unfortunately, I had problems with this book from the beginning. The dialect wasn’t quite right and even when present, it didn’t feel authentic. The story didn’t feel like it was written of that time. The verbiage felt like is was from today. I had come to this conclusion even before one character used the words “laugh out loud” to describe her amusement. And that brings me to the simplicity.
Major spoiler follows!
There is a particularly fascinating series of events in which Mattie takes her child and runs away from the plantation. After reuniting with her husband and son, the author writes, “She had done it. They got away. And now they were together.” This happened often, a tendency to state the obvious, and in a mundane way.
In the second half of the book, Lisabeth and Mattie’s stories separate but only Lisabeth’s story is told. The synopsis is misleading in this regard. Nearly the entire second half of the book is about Lisabeth and her road to becoming an abolitionist.
There were some parts of the book that I enjoyed. Unlike everything I've read where it's impossible to empathize with the slave owners, Lisabeth's internal conflict was critical to the story and I felt for the child. I do believe that the premise for the book was good. But with so many things working against the story, it was a challenge for me to like it.
I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. As with all reviews posted, views expressed are genuine and are in no way influenced by external sources.