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Walk Through Darkness Paperback – August 12, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Powerfully written and emotionally devastating, this new novel by Durham (Gabriel's Story) tells the parallel tales of two men in antebellum America: William, a young fugitive slave, and Morrison, a white man hired to track him. William escapes from Maryland and makes his way toward Philadelphia in search of his pregnant wife, Dover. Morrison, an older Scottish immigrant, has lived a hard, violent life he's not proud of, whose dark secrets such as his responsibility for the death of his brother slowly emerge as the story unwinds. During his hair-raising flight, William is captured by unscrupulous bounty hunters and threatened with discovery at every turn. He risks his life again and again because "there were regions within him upon which no claim of ownership had hold," and because he wants to find his wife and be a free man. The abominable treatment of slaves is always in the foreground, but Durham never succumbs to sentimentality. In one particularly grueling scene, Morrison learns of the tortures to be inflicted on a black prisoner before he is put to death, and he mercifully ends the man's life. In the thrilling climax, Morrison reveals an unexpected tie that binds him to William and makes a gesture that he hopes will redeem his sins. Durham's writing is forceful and full of startling imagery as he testifies to the courage (and sometimes the ambivalence) of people who, in one way or another, rebelled against the great injustice in American history.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

In his second novel (after Gabriel's Story), set shortly before the Civil War, Durham skillfully interweaves the stories of two men, each searching for something essential in his life. William, a Maryland slave, has been hired out to an extremely cruel master. When he receives word that his wife, Dover, is pregnant and has gone to Philadelphia, accompanying her owner's wife, William sees all his hopes and dreams vanishing and runs away to find Dover, their unborn child, and freedom. The journey is perilous he is captured twice and when he does reach Philadelphia he has no idea how to find Dover or what to do next. William's story alternates with that of Andrew Morrison, an old Scot, with both narratives smoothly blended into a whole. His quest is for redemption and is as emotionally painful as William's. Despite the vividly described obstacles and hardships, this is a love story portraying the bonds between man and woman, parent and child, brother and brother, and man and animal. Durham tells a compelling story, deftly rendering both tenderness and brutality. Recommended for all public libraries. Ann Fleury, Tampa-Hillsborough P.L., FL
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (August 12, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038572036X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385720366
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #871,809 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Anthony Durham (born 1969) is an American novelist, author of historical fiction and fantasy. Durham's first novel, Gabriel's Story, centered on African American settlers in the American West. Walk Through Darkness followed a runaway slave during the tense times leading up to the American Civil War. Pride of Carthage focused on Hannibal Barca of Ancient Carthage and his war with the Roman Republic. His novels have twice been New York Times Notable Books, won two awards from the American Library Association, and been translated into eight foreign languages. Gabriel's Story, Walk Through Darkness and Acacia: The War with the Mein are all in development as feature films. Durham's most recently released book, Acacia: The Sacred Band, concludes his epic fantasy Acacia Trilogy. Born to parents of Caribbean ancestry, Durham has lived in Scotland for a number of years. He has worked as an Outward Bound Instructor, and as a whitewater raft guide and kayak instructor. After receiving an MFA from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1996, he taught at the University of Maryland and University of Massachusetts Amherst. He was the MacLean Distinguished Visiting Writer at The Colorado College and was an Associate Professor at Cal State University, Fresno and an adjunct professor at Hampshire College. He won the Zora Neale Hurston/Richard Wright Fiction Award in 1992, the 2002 Legacy Award for Debut Fiction and was a Finalist for the 2006 Legacy Award for Fiction. In 2009, he won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. He currently teaches for the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Nicole McCurty on August 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Very rarely do I read novels about slavery, but the excerpt really drew me in. I had to find out what happened to William, a runway slave, in his quest to find his wife, Dover, who has been sent to live with her mistress in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (a free state). When William discovers what has happened, he flees with his master, trackers and a mysterious white man hot on his trail. Along the way, William will encounter various people. Some will be of help and others a hindrance, but William is determined to see his love again.
I found myself tearful while reading the atrocities that black men and women were forced to endure in this novel. But this story was about so much more than that. It is an expression of the tenacity of the human spirit to survive even in the worst conditions. It is a representation of a body imprisoned with chains, but a mind free to think and dream. It is a testimony that love can conquer all.
If you want to read a story about slavery, you will like this one. But if you want to read a story of love, hate, kindness, betrayal, hope, tragedy, imprisonment and above all freedom, then you will not be able to put this one down.
Reviewed by Nicole
APOOO BookClub
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Gabriel's Story was one of my favorite books of last year. Walk Through Darkness looks like it's gonna be a favorite for this year. This book will probably end up getting compared to other books about slavery, but to me it was more like Cold Mountain - but where the main character is a runaway slave instead of a runaway soldier. There's a similar voyage across a troubled landscape. There are meetings with a variety of characters. Like Charles Frazier's character, William in this novel is on a trek to reunite with the woman he loves - and as such it's a love story. The other main character, Morrison, is one of the best I've come across in a long time. He shows that white immigrants to America also had a tough time of it. He carries internal wounds that come to light only slowly but that build up to a helluva ending.
I'm ashamed to say that when I used to think of great American authors I tended to think of white writers. Not anymore. Mr. Durham is fast earning himself a place among our best. Color has nothing (but also everything) to do with it. Based on the strength of these two books I'd read whatever he writes next. If his third novel was about a mouse trying to chew through a paper bag I'd give it a try... Which is my way of saying that he's really quite good.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By The RAWSISTAZ Reviewers on June 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Not every book has the ability to affect the reader as deeply as Walk Through Darkness affected me. David Anthony Durham, author of the critically acclaimed Gabriel's Story, has written a haunting novel about William, a fugitive slave. One may surmise that the force behind William's escape is freedom. Freedom is, of course, part of the reason William flees his harsh laborious conditions. But even moreso is his desire to find Dover, his wife, who is pregnant with his child and has moved North to freedom with her mistress. The story alternates between William's point of view and Morrison's, a Scottish slave tracker. Somehow these three people, who are separated by miles and life experience, are connected.
Durham's writing is refined, articulate, and descriptive. He makes you feel the fear, terror, relief, pain, joy, and a plethora of other emotions felt by the protagonists. The characters are in no way shallow, instead powerfully constructed with a certain profundity. The author uses a historical setting and breathes new life into it, providing the reader with a raw, fresh story in lands never traversed. Transcending race, time, and status, this Walk Through Darkness will make anyone see the light...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Roy Schneider Jr. on July 8, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Walk Through Darkness is a powerful tale of the trials and tribulations of slavery in early American history and how the forces of love, truth and redemption can at times work to right the wrongs of that hateful period.
In his novel, David Anthony Durham tells a story of William, a fugitive slave, who places his life in danger to find his pregnant wife and deliver her to freedom. With little knowledge of his surroundings and only occasional help from random strangers, William travels from down South to Philadelphia. During his travels, William encounters many hardships, which force him to grow into a stronger man. First, he is tricked, then captured, by a group of slave traders and prepared for sale. Forced to endure the cramped quarters and debasing actions of his captors, he begins to lose hope of his goal, only to be freed through a violent uprising, which results in the death of his captors. On the run again, William reaches Baltimore and stows away upon a trading ship, only to be found and once again returned to shackles. It is here, while befriended by the ship's Captain, that William begins to learn the larger lessons of life. With one more chance to reach his goal, he is given the opportunity to escape, and through a stroke of luck, finally ends up in Philadelphia. Hungry, tired and lost, William succumbs to yellow fever and would have died had it not been for the help of a stranger. This Samaritan only asks that he understand her altruistic ways and her desire to help him become a free man. Fully recovered, he discovers his wife's whereabouts and makes plans to rescue her from her surroundings.
Throughout William's journey, we follow a parallel story of a Scottish tracker, Andrew Morrison, who is hired to find, capture, and bring William back to his master in one piece.
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