From Publishers Weekly
Escaped slaves, free blacks, slave-catchers and plantation owners weave a tangled web of intrigue and adventure in bestselling memoirist (The Color of Water
) McBride's intricately constructed and impressive second novel, set in pre–Civil War Maryland. Liz Spocott, a beautiful young runaway slave, suffers a nasty head wound just before being nabbed by a posse of slave catchers. She falls into a coma, and, when she awakes, she can see the future—from the near-future to Martin Luther King to hip-hop—in her dreams. Liz's visions help her and her fellow slaves escape, but soon there are new dangers on her trail: Patty Cannon and her brutal gang of slave catchers, and a competing slave catcher, nicknamed The Gimp, who has a surprising streak of morality. Liz has some friends, including an older woman who teaches her The Code that guides runaways; a handsome young slave; and a wild inhabitant of the woods and swamps. Kidnappings, gunfights and chases ensue as Liz drifts in and out of her visions, which serve as a thoughtful meditation on the nature of freedom and offer sharp social commentary on contemporary America. McBride hasn't lost his touch: he nails the horrors of slavery as well as he does the power of hope and redemption. (Feb.)
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After a moving tribute to his Jewish mother (The Color of Water
, 1996) and a novel about African American soldiers in World War II (Miracle at St. Anna
, 2003), jazz musician and composer James McBride reaches even further into the past to explore the complexities and unpredictability of human nature against the backdrop of slavery. Based on actual historical figures, including Harriet Tubman, McBride’s novel starts slowly but soon develops into a suspenseful, action-packed adventure. Some critics objected to the blatant social criticism in Liz’s dreams of modern-day African Americans (described by the Minneapolis Star Tribune
as “frankly offensive imagery and the polemic they clearly represent”), and a few cited flat characters and overly modern idioms. However, throughout this compelling and thought-provoking novel, McBride skillfully weaves his timely message that slavery can persist in many forms.Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.