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The Freedom Maze Hardcover – November 22, 2011

4.8 out of 5 stars 20 customer reviews

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Hardcover, November 22, 2011
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the summer of 1960, 13-year-old bookish Sophie Fairchild Martineau is dumped at her mother’s childhood Louisiana home, Oak Cottage, where Sophie’s grandmother has taken to her bed, sighing for the Good Old Days before the War of Northern Aggression. In the stifling humidity, Sophie vents her silent resentment by clearing an overgrown maze, part of the once proud Fairchild plantation. After she wishes impulsively for a grand adventure, she is transported to Oak Cottage in 1860. Here, the story takes a startling turn as Sophie is mistaken for a slave by her ancestors. The vivid characters come to life through Sophie’s nuanced observations, and the tension heightens as her compassionate understanding of her fellow slaves deepens. Sophie’s shift back to her own time is abrupt, but the juxtaposition of the skillfully drawn settings allows readers to draw conclusions about racial equality, human dignity, and the innate drive to control one’s own life. This multilayered story combines fantasy, clever literary allusions, and societal observations into a unique coming-of-age story. --Lynn Rutan


Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2011

"Multilayered, compassionate and thought-provoking, a timely read on the sesquicentennial of America’s Civil War."
Kirkus Reviews (*starred review*)

"Sherman has created a finely honed work of art, a novel that deals eloquently with complex and intersecting issues of race, womanhood, class and age. In transporting the reader so fully into another time, The Freedom Maze becomes timeless."
—Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of Moonshine

"A seamless blending of wondrous American myth with harsh American reality, as befits young Sophie's coming-of-age. I think younger readers and adults alike will be completely riveted by her magical journey into her own family's double-edged past."
—N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

"Beautifully imagined and told with satisfyingly matter-of-fact detail: pot liquor and spoon bread, whips and Spanish Moss, corset covers and vévés and bitter, healing herbs. The Freedom Maze is deep, meaningful fun."
—Nisi Shawl, author of Filter House

"Exposes a wide sweep through a narrow aperture, where the arbitrary nature of race and ownership, kindred and love, are illuminated in the harsh seeking glare of an adolescent's coming of age."
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

"This book puts the lie to those today making loose political statements about happy, comfortable slave families of that brutal era while telling a strong story that will not let the young reader stop turning pages to see how things will work out for Sophie and her fellow slaves, especially the cook Africa, and house slaves Antigua and Canada. I was mesmerized."
—Jane Yolen, author of The Devil's Arithmetic

"A riveting, fearless, and masterful novel. I loved Sophie completely."
—Nancy Werlin, author of Extraordinary

"A subtle and haunting book that examines what it means to be who we are."
—Holly Black, co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles

"Vividly realized and saturated with feeling."
—Elizabeth Knox, author of DreamHunter

"Elegantly unravels many myths of the antebellum South, highlighting the resistance of the enslaved, and showing how even the kind hearted are corrupted by their exploitation of their fellow human beings."
—Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar

"A story that says what no story has quite said before, and says it perfectly."
—Sarah Smith, author of the Agatha-winning The Other Side of Dark

"A dramatic yet sensitively-written coming-of-age story that succeeds both as classic fantasy and issue-oriented children's literature."
—Chris Moriarty

"Vivid and compelling, The Freedom Maze will transport you completely to another time."
—Sarah Beth Durst

The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Big Mouth House; 1 edition (November 22, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931520305
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931520300
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,504,384 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I received this e-book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program which provides free books in exchange for a review.

Ostensibly a Young Adult book, this novel kept me turning pages right until the end. The author does a superb job integrating the various threads of historical fiction and fantasy within a coming of age tale.

The teenaged protagonist, Sophie, was written authentically as naïve, stubborn, and rebellious. The mother/daughter and other family relationships are well defined. Sophie's character matures substantially after her time travel adventures (or, more accurately, her misadventures). The primary and supporting characters are well-drawn and while some border on being stereotypes, the majority are, for the most part, believable.

Initially, the fantasy aspect of the book seemed jarring to me, but then, there would have to be a way to explain Sophie's ability to time travel to her ancestral plantation home and back again. As the story unfolded, my concerns disappeared as Ms. Sherman does an excellent job encapsulating the fantastical elements within the African healing myths and rituals.

At the back of the book, the author states the novel was written over an 18-year period. I applaud her persistence as it has paid off in a provocative novel that somehow manages to pull the reader in as the story progresses. The exhaustive research shines through and the writing never gets in the way of the storyline.

Any book about slavery is necessarily tragic, but Ms. Sherman is able to write an interesting tale without making it too dark for younger readers. I recommend Freedom Maze for readers of any age.
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Format: Hardcover
In 1960 New Orleans, thirteen-year-old Sophie Martineau is struggling to cope with her parents' recent divorce. Her father has moved to New York City, and her former best friend is no longer allowed to socialize with the child of a single mother. To make matters worse, Sophie's mother has decided to send her to Oak Cottage, an old plantation outside of New Orleans, to stay with her grandmother and aunt for the summer. Bored and lonely, Sophie makes a wish to be someone else, and is inadvertently transported back in time to 1860. Having spent several weeks in the sun exploring the bayou of Oak Cottage, Sophie's tanned skin causes her to be mistaken for a slave, and she is immediately put to work in Oak River House, the luxurious home of her ancestors, the Fairchilds. Sophie is used to the racial segregation in the south of 1960, but nothing prepares her for the cruelty and discrimination she experiences as a slave in a pre-Civil War plantation.

Inspired by real life slave narratives and memoirs, veteran author Delia Sherman's The Freedom Maze proves to be a well-written and intriguing novel that is both entertaining and educational. Although the story involves time travel to the 19th century, it begins in the past, over fifty years ago, at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Sophie is a complex character, as is her mother, a recently divorced, bitter woman who warns Sophie against associating with "negroes," especially men. As was likely the case with many children during this period of time, Sophie is unsure of exactly why she is supposed to be afraid of African Americans, but takes her mother's word for it, trying hard to be a proper southern lady.
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Format: Hardcover
Sophie's a teenager, coping with summer boredom at her invalid grandmother's home, when she finds a magical creature who can send her back in time... to slavery days.

It's a book that feels authentic in its recreation of life on a sugar plantation - the dangers and oppression, the friendship and caring and magic. All the characters feel real, and it isn't written from a romantic "Gone with the Wind" view of the past. In fact, in some ways, this is the anti-Gone-with-the-Wind.

It's also a story of grace under pressure, and while it confronts a lot of difficult themes, it's not a depressing book. At all. In fact, it's a fast and wonderful read. I'd recommend this book to children - and adults - who are interested in adventure stories or historical fiction.
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Format: Audible Audio Edition
The Freedom Maze is one of those beautifully crafted, almost underhanded coming of age stories where it's impossible to observe the changes in one you see every day, until suddenly you're faced with the contrast of who they once were. Sophie is a girl reaching most tentatively that border between being a child and being a young woman. Being pushed most forcibly toward the latter by her quite proper mother, Sophie feels stifled in her own skin (and especially the stockings, not to mention the bra). Wonderfully, it is Sophie's refusal to release her grasp on the childhood notions of adventure and magic that eventually lead her into who she will become.

Delia Sherman completely sucked me in with so many of those things I can't resist-good historical fiction and good time travel among them. A relatively uncomplicated time travel tale, Sophie is thrown from her summer life at the family estate in Louisiana 1960 into life at the family estate (and plantation) in 1860. Both time periods were rife with struggles for Civil Rights; one for freedom, the other for equality. Because Sherman chose to focus the story on Sophie, a privileged white southerner of 1960 who is forced to become a light-skinned slave in 1860, we are afforded this window of opportunity to understand both worlds from an angle I, for one, have never seen. What I loved most about Sophie's development was that her personal perspective on African Americans didn't change so much as her understanding of them as human beings of equal (or greater) worth. She is a young person being brought up to have the perspective of her white southern family, never before realizing that as kind as they may seem, treating one with kindness is not the same as treating them as an equal.
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