His first thought was of her. His final thought was of her.
At the heart of it, Freeman is a love story. But it is much more. It is a story of endurance and heartache. Determination and sorrow. It is a story of human sacrifice and conviction. And it is a love story.
Pitts creates a novel with a wonderful cast of characters who draw you in to the story of the months following the end of the Civil War. It’s not a book about the Civil War. It is a novel, much like Cold Mountain, that begins when the war ends and follows the lives of four complex human beings. Sam a free black man in the North who goes South looking for his lost wife; Tilda a slave woman down-trodden and still with her protagonist “owner” unsure what the end to slavery and the word “free” means to her; Prudence a young, wealthy, educated white widow from Boston who ventures South to open a Negro school and fulfill her father’s wishes; and Bonnie, the black woman raised and educated with Prudence who finds herself struggling with her own feelings about her heritage.
Sam undertakes a 1000 mile journey on foot. Tilda is beaten, abused and raped. Prudence and Bonnie turn a town to violence against them in their quest to help and educate the free slaves.
The book is often violent but written with compassion and care and the reader finds much to love about this hard-scrabble life during one of the most brutal periods in the history of the United States. It is a sweeping saga that takes place all within just a few months – months when the country should be at peace and yet death is around every corner.
I really enjoyed the perspective of this story, looking at the post-war era filled with possibility from the black slaves point of view, their hope and fear of what lies ahead for them in the “united” states.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five stars for Freeman by Leonard Pitts Jr.
Read last week’s review of The Good Neighbor – The Life and Work of Fred Rogers