Reluctantly, but dutifully, the slave Jacob accompanies his master Tolin Cobb to Florida in 1836 on militia duty. On return home to Alabama, they discover their lives changed forever. The family plantation has been destroyed, allegedly by rampaging Creek Indians. Tolin's father is dead along with many of Jacob's slave family. Jason's also informed the Creeks have carried off his love, Louisa, pregnant with his child.
Devastated, Tolin and Jason head West where they begin a new page in their lives among trappers, traders and Indians.
Early in their lives, Jason had saved Tolin from death in a fire. As a result, his life has been a little different from that of most slaves, Tolin treating him to an unusual amount of friendship in private and even teaching him to read. In the West Jason suddenly finds himself accepted by most as a man and not as property. It's difficult for him to break free of the conventions he's known most of his life, yet he begins to relish this new found liberty.
Life takes another turn when Tolin decides to return to Missouri. Believing he owes loyalty to Tolin, Jacob accompanies him. He's surprised to learn Tolin has made him a free man, though kept it secret for a year. In many ways the practice of slavery has been a burden for Tolin, too, and he finds a new personal freedom in assisting the abolitionist cause. Relishing a new and genuine freedom, Jason remains with him for a time until predatory slavers force him to flee into Indian Territory where a new chapter in his life begins.
We've grown blasé about freedom, taking it for granted and taking no responsibility for anything our ancestors may have done. We need reminders like this novel that we're all one family and mutually culpable. Kae Cheatham has provided an eloquent and beautiful tale replete with believable characters, adventure, romance and accurate history.
I was captivated from the first page and stayed interested all through the book. It felt like this author lived a life as a slave seeking and finding freedom. It was refreshing to read that all the slave owners were not abusive and it was possible for a young white boy and his young slave to grow up as best friends even when it was not accepted in public. While this was an interesting book about the history of the South and western territories in the 1800's, it was also a love story packed full of hope and adventure.