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Four Characters in Search of a Plot
on November 12, 2012
MAY THE ROAD RISE UP TO MEET YOU is historical fiction set during the Civil War. Peter Troy alternates the points of view of four different characters who ultimately converge on Cooperstown, New York.
Ethan McOwen is a young boy when the story begins; we see him become embroiled in the Potato famine in Ireland, losing his sister Aislinn. Ethan emigrates to America where he joins his father and brother Seann, who is involved in Tammany Hall politics. Ethan becomes a photographer, and with his three friends, volunteers for duty with the Irish Brigade. Marcella Arroyo is a headstrong young lady who shuns her father's traditional view of women and joins the emancipation movement. Micah is a master carpenter who is sold at an auction for twice what a field hand would bring. Mary is similar in that she's a much-in-demand dressmaker; she is saved from a much more dire fate when Jusstine Kittridge begs her mother to buy her at auction. They become like sisters.
There's not a whole lot of conflict in the story. Ethan is wounded during the war, but according to the author, he's an even better photographer than Matthew Brady. Micha's first master as an adult is a drunken, lazy thug who beats Micha for no reason, but is smart enough to know how valuable a master carpenter is; when he sells him, he makes twice what he'd get for a strong field hand. Micha's second owner gives him his own house to live in, but he works him even harder than his first master. Mary works as a dressmaker for Jusstine's mother. She's the best seamstress in Richmond, Virginia. So, these are four very formidable people.
There are several motiffs running throughout the story. Ethan blames himself for Aislinn's death and is constantly talking to her; Mary is similar in that she tried to escape once with her protector, Gertie, after being raped by an overseer. Mary blames herself when they're caught and Gertie is killed. She writes to Gertie in a little diary. Micha's father was sold down the river; he had made a deal to grow indigo in an overgrown field his master no longer used. When he had saved a thousand dollars he would buy Micah's freedom. But the master dies and the new master says she knows nothing about any deal. His father is sold at auction and Micah mourns his loss. Marcella is much more self sufficient, although she's lucky she had some place to turn to when she left her father's house.
There are several romantic interludes as well as some Civil War action and the anticipated escape attempt, but the action is ancillary to character development. If you know your history, not much of this is a surprise.