Friday, August 05, 2011

Review - All Different Kinds of Free

All Different Kinds of Free
All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann.

I got an advance copy via NetGalley.

Margaret Morgan is a free black woman living with her husband and children in Pennsylvania. But her life is shattered when the family that owned her parents decides to kidnap her and her children into slavery. This book backs away from the Supreme Court ruling of Prigg v. Pennsylvania and looks instead at the woman in the center of the case, and what being sold into slavery meant for her.

I wanted to like this book. I had fears from the start that I wasn't going to like what happened in it, but I wanted to enjoy the book itself. Jessica McCann is a good storyteller, and the action moves at a good pace, but there are a few issues with the writing itself that made it hard for me to get through. The story jumped from viewpoint to viewpoint a little jaggedly in the beginning, and the writing level is slightly simplistic for such a powerful message. The grammar is a bit choppy, as well, but that might be deliberate. For a first novel, this isn't bad. For such an important and ignored story, it's just ok.

My biggest issue with the book was that I thought I knew what the ending would be, based on the historical record, and so was bracing myself for it... but it never really came. And while the tragedy throughout the book certainly lived up to the pain, it never really felt like it bleed through to the reader. Horror after horror, but it just didn't leave an impact. And while I cheered at the end, it felt a little too tacked on to be real. If I sound ambivalent about this book, that's because I am.

In the end, just remember that this book is a fictional guess at one way Margaret's life might have gone. To be honest, I'd really like a follow-up from a serious researcher of a historian who can find out what really happened to Margaret Morgan. The author made an attempt, but I would like someone else to give it a try. Sadly, that information may not exist.


Tom_E_Reynolds said...

I too want to know what actually happened to poor Margaret Morgan...

Tegan said...

I like to think that Ashmore freed her, as the author indicated might have happened. In any case, the whole thing is so desperately horrible... I fantasize about going back in time with a clue-by-four and beating a lot of slaveowning heads.