After the Civil War ends, runaway slave Sam Freeman is determined to return to Mississippi to find his wife, Tilda, and takes off on foot. Along the way he encounters Ben, a man on a similar mission and they team up for a while. When Sam gets to Mississippi, he meets Prudence Kent, a wealthy white widow who’s come from Boston to start a school for newly freed slaves.
Not surprisingly, Prudence’s school is not well received by the white people of the community. When she finally gets the message that she’s not wanted, she and Sam come up with an elaborate scheme to show the townspeople the worth of the newly freed slaves.
I read Freeman, by Leonard Pitts, Jr., for my book club and will readily admit that I went into it with a bad attitude. I generally don’t read historical fiction and this is a big book with small print. Plus, it’s set right after the Civil War and I figured there was nothing new to add to what’s already been written about that time period. So, no one was more surprised than I was when I became engrossed in Sam’s story.
Freeman doesn’t get bogged down in a lot of historical facts and details – rather, it’s the story of people who lived through the Civil War and its aftermath. Don’t get me wrong, it still felt historically accurate to me – it was just more about the people and not the politics of the period. Full of heart and emotion, it was easy to empathize with the characters as they struggled to make a life for themselves in their changed world. This book shows how the slaves coped with new found freedom – they had few resources and could barely survive but they longed to be with their families and would do anything to find them.
The point of view alternates between Sam, Tilda, and Prudence and it didn’t take me long to be captivated by their stories. The characters felt real to me, so I became attached to them and kept hoping things would work out for the best. The story dragged just a little for me in the middle, but it quickly picked up steam again. Overall, this book was a winner for me! If you enjoy historical fiction and/or the Civil War, you’re sure to enjoy this book.
Everyone in my book club enjoyed Freeman – sometimes that’s a problem when it comes to discussing a book, but it wasn’t in this case. We couldn’t find any formal discussion questions but we still found plenty to discuss.