Chillingly prescient, insightfully nuanced and disturbingly evocative, this historical epic, based in New Orleans, follows the turbulence that rocked the state of Louisiana in the years following the Confederate loss of the Civil War.
The second in a historical series from this author featuring Emmett Collins, I had not read the preceding book, which covered the Civil War, and had no difficulties following this continuing story line.
In the current book, our main protagonist, Emmett Collins, an 18 year old from rural Maine has landed in New Orleans as a special agent to the Freedman Bureau. His role is to help create educational, financial and supportive structures to assist in the integration of newly-freed Black slaves into society as “equal” participants.
And there-in lies Emmett’s (and society’s dilemma) – after 200 years of slavery, what will it take for white men to accept Blacks as their social and intellectual equals? And, equally disturbingly, what about women, with roles vacillating between Southern ladies under male rule/protection or the completely inconsequential service-providing “whores”?
As it turns out, it very well may end up taking more than humanity has to offer.
It is perhaps unsurprising to see the lengths hatred, violence, racism and misogyny can take a society but to watch it play out in this deeply evocative read is horrifying and upsetting. As militia groups, – including the truly evil “ Knights of the White Camellia” followed by the “White League” – proliferate, a serial rapist and murderer of Black prostitutes, known as the “Black Dot” also makes his presence known. It is truly appalling, and as Emmett and his smallish band of principled supporters learn, with great difficulty, the battle for real-life equality is deathly fierce and at times feels futile.
“You get a pack of humans together seeing weakness and it might as well be feeding time in a gator pond.”
Against the backdrop of all this horror, Emmett meets and discovers his one true love, and we cheer as we breathe in the glimmer of hope silently taking shape between the pages.
“For a brief period, they were able to forget the hatred of man and dwell in the delicacy of love, before tumbling into mixed dreams of love and hate”.
- Will Emmett and his love escape with their lives and their love intact?
- Is there a broader hope for love and compassion to save a sick and broken society?
- If “time is not linear but floats through the present, past, and future”, is an up-close and terrifying encounter with our history enough to prevent its reenactment in present-day?
There has never been a more relevant time to consider these very questions.
A great big thank you to author for an ARC of this unsettling, thought-provoking and timely book. All thoughts presented are my own.
This title will be released on Aug 25, 2021