The Good Lord Bird by James McBride - 432 pages
Henry Shackleford is a young slave living in the Kansas Territory in 1857, when the region is a battleground between anti- and pro-slavery forces. When John Brown, the legendary abolitionist, arrives in the area, an argument between Brown and Henry’s master quickly turns violent. Henry is forced to leave town—with Brown, who believes he’s a girl.
Over the ensuing months, Henry—whom Brown nicknames Little Onion—conceals his true identity as he struggles to stay alive. Eventually Little Onion finds himself with Brown at the historic raid on Harpers Ferry in 1859—one of the great catalysts for the Civil War.
An absorbing mixture of history and imagination, and told with McBride’s meticulous eye for detail and character, The Good Lord Bird is both a rousing adventure and a moving exploration of identity and survival.
My Review: 3 stars
I requested this book when I saw James McBride had a new one out. I had no idea what it was about but I’m so glad I read it. It was even better for me once I realized that the story is based on an actual white abolitionist that stormed through the Kansas territory on a mission. John Brown and his maniacal methods are what many historians say was the final straw on what led to the Civil War. I loved the protagonist and narrator, twelve-year-old Onion, who was kidnapped/rescued by Brown and lived with him under the guise of a girl. Wonderful storytelling but for me the last quarter was far too military minded for my reading tastes. It was a lot of information that came on rapidly to the reader. This book has led me to read up on John Brown as well as to see if the prologue has any truth to it. It was interesting to read a book on slavery from the Free Staters point of view rather than Pro Slavers.
Quotes I liked:
- “He made various attempts to comb out his beard without success, but with me traveling incog-Negro, posing as a consort, he weren’t tricking nobody.”
- “Them fellers was dangerous, but for the simple reason they had a cause. Ain’t no worse thing in the world than fronting up against one of those, for a man with a cause, right or wrong, has got plenty to prove, and will make you suck sorrow if you get in the way of them wrongly.”
- “We will strike at the queen bee in order to kill the hive.”
- “I come to enjoy them talks, for even though I’d gotten used to living a lie -being a girl- it come to me this way: Being a Negro’s a lie, anyway. Nobody see the real you. Nobody knows who you are inside. You just judged on what you are on the outside whatever your color. Mulatto, colored, black, it don’t matter. You just a negro to the world. I come to the understanding that maybe what was on the inside was more important, and that your outer covering didn’t count so much as folks thought it did, colored or white, man or woman.”
- “For if I’d a pressed up against her and held her in my arms, she’d’a knowed my true nature. She’d’a felt my heart banging, she’d’a felt the love busting out of me, and she’d’a knowed I was a man.”
- “Being a Negro means shwoing your best face to the white an every day. You know his wants, his needs, and watch him proper. But he don’t know your wants. He don’t know your needs or feeling or what’s inside you, for you ain’t equal to him in no measure. You just a nigger to him. A thing; like a dog or a shovel or a horse.”
- “G-d gived you the seed. But the watering and caring of that seed is up to you.”
-“He was like everybody in war. He believed G-d was on his side. Everybody got G-d on their side in a war. Problem is, G-d ain’t tellin’ nobody who He’s for.”
Tags: 2014, Historical Fiction, Slavery, Civil War,
Labels: 2014, Civil War, Historical Fiction, Slavery