Liz Spocott is a runaway slave in 1850 Maryland. She is shot in the head and captured by slave traders, when she manages to escape, setting free the other captures slaves at the same time. In McBride’s novel, we are brought into the heart of slavery, and see it in total truth. We see that blacks could be loyal to their masters and not want to leave, and white owners who didn’t always feel as if their slaves were merely property. McBride isn’t saying that slavery wasn’t bad, but it’s effect on everyone wasn’t as clear-cut, as we might view it today.
The character Liz Spocott is given visions (much like Harriet Tubman), but in her visions, she sees images of the future. Just like a 21st century person seeing images of slavery, Liz cannot fully process what she is seeing, and becomes convinced that the future will be terrible for people of color. I thought the author’s play on time and context to be especially astute as he attempts to take an honest look at slavery.
This is one of those books that I will have to go back and read again at some point. The author weaves actual historical persons within his narrative, presenting a tale that is as colorful as it is thought-provoking. It is one of those novels that you appreciate even more once you’ve had a chance to digest it.
4 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2009