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Review: River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

Title: River Sing Me Home

Author: Meg Shaffer
Year published: 2023
Category: Adult fiction
Pages: 336 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location: (my 2023 Google Reading map): Barbados, Trinidad, British Guiana (since 1966 Guyana)

SummaryHer search begins with an ending.…

The master of the Providence plantation in Barbados gathers his slaves and announces the king has decreed an end to slavery. As of the following day, the Emancipation Act of 1834 will come into effect. The cries of joy fall silent when he announces that they are no longer his slaves; they are now his apprentices. No one can leave. They must work for him for another six years. Freedom is just another name for the life they have always lived. So Rachel runs.
Away from Providence, she begins a desperate search to find her children—the five who survived birth and were sold. Are any of them still alive? Rachel has to know. The grueling, dangerous journey takes her from Barbados then, by river, deep into the forest of British Guiana and finally across the sea to Trinidad. She is driven on by the certainty that a mother cannot be truly free without knowing what has become of her children, even if the answer is more than she can bear. These are the stories of Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy. But above all this is the story of Rachel and the extraordinary lengths to which a mother will go to find her children...and her freedom.

. . . You might just get it.

Review: I haven't read much literature set in the Caribbean and this one spanned three countries: Barbados, Trinidad, and British Guiana in 1834 as slavery was officially ending (of course, this doesn't mean it's really over). I learned a lot about the history of enslavement and the "apprenticeships" in these countries, the culture, and read a wonderful novel.

Rachel is such a strong woman and her desire to find her children who were sold off to other families is a story that pulls the reader in from the start. In her After Word the author says that her great grandmother Rachel did something similar. Apparently when slavery was declared over in the Caribbean it was quite common for women to go searching for the children that had been taken from them.

This book is about enslavement, but really it's mainly about relationships: master and enslaved person; parents (mostly mothers) and their children; siblings, romantic partners. These are done so well in this book! There is depth, good and bad, happy and sad; they all feel so real and show us something different of human nature.

Other themes of this novel are perseverance, personal strength, love, and doing for others. I highly recommend this book.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Literary Escapes--Barbados, Trinidad, British Guiana

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