Monday, July 8, 2024

River Sing Me Home

River Sing Me Home
  River Sing Me Home
Author:  Eleanor Shearer
Publication Information:  Berkley. 2023. 336 pages.
ISBN:  0593548043 / 978-0593548042

Rating:   ★★★★

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The soil on the island was fertile, but everything laid down shallow roots."

Favorite Quote:  "Mary Grace lifted her eyes to the sky, perhaps to where she felt her God would be. Rachel did the same, even though she did not believe in a sky-god. She felt that if any god or gods existed, they would be diffused throughout everything and everyone on earth, neither benevolent nor malign, but simply existing, drawing everything together, living and dead."

The Emancipation Act of 1834 has come into being in Barbados. On that day, the master of the plantation announces that though, they may no longer be slaves, all the former slaves are now apprentices. They must must work for him for another six years to pay for their freedom before they can leave. "Freedom is just another name for the life they have always lived."

Rachel is a slave on the Providence plantation. One by one, her children either died or were sold away. Rachel is a mother. What comes next for her? Apprenticeship? Continuation of life as it has always been, just with a different title? Rachel runs, the call of freedom and the glimmer of hope driving her while fear follows her every decision. "She shielded herself from the world as best she could. Every time she saw white skin, her hands would tremble. This was the read power of slavery, the long shadow it could cast after its formal end - that even with all this distance between her and Providence, Rachel still lived in fear."

Freedom, hope, and fear are the themes of the book, not just for Rachel for all whom she encounters and all that she discovers about the lives of her children:
  • "Every freedom had its price."
  • "This is why me don't like to do it... Think about the past. The memories too painful. The hope hurt. All I want to do is live the life in front of me, because it's a miracle me make it here."
  • "Hope hurts."
  • "Hope led you to dream things that could not be, like freedom wrestled from the white man's unwilling hands, or a family reunited."
  • "Freedom mean something different to me. The search, that is freedom."
Rachel travels far in her search. To some extent, her story and the fate of each of her children becomes symbolic of the experiences of so many - those who died or were killed, those who found safety, those who made unthinkable compromises to survive, and those who continue the search.

Reading this story as that of one family cause me to ponder the connections and convenient segways that allow Rachel the path she follows. However, reading it as symbolic allows me to put aside the coincidences and rather focus on the different paths each individual story takes and the immense loss and tragedy. Ultimately, this is story of a mother's love and the lengths to what that love will go and sacrifice to protect and save her children.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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