FREEMAN by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
FREEMAN by Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Freeman, the new novel by Leonard Pitts, Jr., takes place in the first few months following the Confederate surrender and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Upon learning of Lee's surrender, Sam--a runaway slave who once worked for the Union Army--decides to leave his safe haven in Philadelphia and set out on foot to return to the war-torn South. What compels him on this almost-suicidal course is the desire to find his wife, the mother of his only child, whom he and their son left behind 15 years earlier on the Mississippi farm to which they all "belonged."
At the same time, Sam's wife, Tilda, is being forced to walk at gunpoint with her owner and two of his other slaves from the charred remains of his Mississippi farm into Arkansas, in search of an undefined place that would still respect his entitlements as slaveowner and Confederate officer.
The book's third main character, Prudence, is a fearless, headstrong white woman of means who leaves her Boston home for Buford, Mississippi, to start a school for the former bondsmen, and thus honor her father’s dying wish.
At bottom, Freeman is a love story--sweeping, generous, brutal, compassionate, patient--about the feelings people were determined to honor, despite the enormous constraints of the times. It is this aspect of the book that should ensure it a strong, vocal, core audience of African-American women, who will help propel its likely critical acclaim to a wider audience. At the same time, this book addresses several themes that are still hotly debated today, some 145 years after the official end of the Civil War. Like Cold Mountain, Freeman illuminates the times and places it describes from a fresh perspective, with stunning results. It has the potential to become a classic addition to the literature dealing with this period.
"A uniquely American epic...Freeman is an important addition to the literature of slavery and the Civil War, by a knowledgeable, compassionate and relentlessly truthful writer determined to explore both enslavement in all its malignancy and also what it truly means to be free." — Howard Frank Mosher, Washington Post
"Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist [Leonard] Pitts once again demonstrates his gift for historical fiction.... In lyrical prose, Pitts unflinchingly and movingly portrays the period's cruelties, and triumphs in capturing the spirit of the times through eminently identifiable lead characters." —Publishers Weekly starred review
"Freeman is a myth of what’s humanly possible, a needed story about little-known heroism, and a shadow thrown forward to the struggles of American families in the 21st century." —John Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer
"Leonard Pitts has a passion for history and a gift for storytelling. Both shine in this story of love and redemption, which challenges everything we thought we knew about how our nation dealt with its most stubborn stain." —Gwen Ifill, PBS, author of The Breakthrough