The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks – Book Review

 theorphanmother

I loved this novel.  It was such a wonderful portrayal of a recently freed slave, her hopes for the future and the society that she lived in.  This book is set in Reconstruction era Tennessee, with the newly freed Mariah Reddick a midwife who has birthed the majority of people in her town as the main character.  I loved Mariah.  Her ability to make a new life for herself after slavery has ended is remarkable.  Although she is a newly freed slave, Mariah is someone of note in her town, and has the respect of both whites and blacks.

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I really felt as though I was in the world of this book.  Mariah was such a relatable character to me personally that I regarded her as a friend.  When Mariahs’ son, Theopolis, the local cobbler is murdered, Mariah funnels her grief into finding out who the murderer is.

Muddying the waters is Tole, a newly arrived sharpshooter from New York.  He not only befriends Mariah, but he also has much to hide, and much to reveal.  I love how Mariah considered herself an orphan mother, for what else is a woman who has lost every member of her family but an orphan.  Although this is a novel of great loss, it is also a novel of great gain.  It left me with the feeling that these newly freed slaves really need to have their voices heard.  They went from living highly circumscribed lives to having to make a living, make decisions and be responsible for themselves.  Not only that, but they also had to walk a path that was dangerous, and any misstep could cost their life.  This is one novel that gives voice to a people who have not really been heard loud and clear.  I highly recommend this novel!  Well done, Robert Hicks.

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Robert Hicks

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