I offered to read and review this historical short story and looked forward in eager anticipation to getting into the story. I was instantly hooked by the main character, 11-year-old Nathaniel Johnson. The story takes place during June 1863 when school is out on holiday. He misses his father who signed up to fight in the Civil War the previous autumn and has not been heard of since.
Nathaniel lives with his mother and grandfather who share opposite views on the issue of slaves. His grandfather and Nathaniel’s missing father are both strong abolitionists, while his mother believes Christians should obey the law and not be involved in abetting legally-owned slaves to find freedom.
The youngster is torn in his feelings, wanting to believe his mother is correct and yet horrified by some of the stories fed to him by his grandfather. Things come to a head when Nathaniel discovered a young slave couple hiding in the family barn with their hours-old infant. His grandfather is old and frail, his father is missing, and the raiding party is on its way to find and recapture slaves on the run. The boy faces a decision which could carry horrific consequences and thrust him into a manhood he is scarcely ready for.
The characters are strong and well-portrayed, and the story line gripped me from the first paragraph. The author has used her ability to create atmosphere well, and as a reader I could see Nathaniel’s favorite spot, “nearly hidden away in a sheltered cove on the banks of the Ohio River” and feel the cool water lapping around his bare feet. I felt the boy’s pain and fear at the loss of his father, and the emotional turmoil over the opposing points of view in the issue of slaves.
When the story reaches its climax, with the knowledge that a raiding party of slave catchers are on their way, the tension becomes tangible and I couldn’t put the book down until I learned what Nathaniel was going to do.
My only complaint is that the book stopped too soon! I wanted to read on and learn how Nathaniel’s decision affects his future and that of his family. Despite this, I strongly recommend this short book and give it a five-star review.
I have not been compensated in any way for this review, and these are my honest opinions.
Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored nearly 40 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. She is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences.
She won the 2008 Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) and was the 2011 Author of the Year from BooksandAuthors.net. Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband.