From the author of the highly acclaimed The Story of Land and Sea comes a captivating novel, set in the late eighteenth-century American South, that follows a singular group of companions--an escaped slave, a white orphan, and a Creek Indian--who are being tracked down for murder.Read more...
From the author of the highly acclaimed The Story of Land and Sea comes a captivating novel, set in the late eighteenth-century American South, that follows a singular group of companions--an escaped slave, a white orphan, and a Creek Indian--who are being tracked down for murder.
In 1788, three men converge in the southern woods of what is now Alabama. Cat, an emotionally scarred white man from South Carolina, is on the run after abandoning his home. Bob is a talkative black man fleeing slavery on a Pensacola sugar plantation, Istillicha, edged out of his Creek town's leadership, is bound by honor to seek retribution.
In the few days they spend together, the makeshift trio commits a shocking murder that soon has the forces of the law bearing down upon them. Sent to pick up their trail, a probing French tracker named Le Clerc must decide which has a greater claim: swift justice, or his own curiosity about how three such disparate, desperate men could act in unison.
Katy Simpson Smith skillfully brings into focus men whose lives are both catastrophic and full of hope--and illuminates the lives of the women they left behind. Far from being anomalies, Cat, Bob, and Istillicha are the beating heart of the new America that Le Clerc struggles to comprehend. In these territories caught between European, American, and Native nations, a wilderness exists where four men grapple with the importance of family, the stain of guilt, and the competing forces of power, love, race, and freedom--questions that continue to haunt us today.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-12-07
- Reviewer: Staff
Set in 1788 and drawing from a historical incident, Smiths searching second novel probes connection and isolation, forgiveness and guilt. In an American South where control shifts among American, European, and Native American presences, three men rob and kill a group of travelers. Joined together by chance, the men are unlikely murderers. Bob, an escaped slave from a Florida plantation, has left his family for the dream of freedom out West. Creek warrior Istillicha seeks redress for the money and power stolen from him in his village. Cat, a despairing white man, flees a lifetime of loss, including the deaths of his wife and son. Told of the three mens crime, the Creek chief arranges for Frenchman Louis LeClerc, who has been living with his tribe, to hunt and punish the culprits (the victims were traveling under the chiefs protection). LeClerc is an anthropologist as well as a skilled tracker, burning to discover what bond could unite the disparate trio. As the paths of pursuer and prey intersect, all four men face unexpected lessons about the nature of freedom and the need to belong. Like Smiths debut, The Story of Land and Sea, this novel evokes the complexity of a fledgling America in precise, poetic language. Though likely too slow-paced for some readers, it is rich with insights about history and the human heart. (Feb.)