River Sing Me Home was published on 19 January 2023 by Berkley and is a historical literary fiction describing a mother's love and the lengths she would go to find her children, whether dead or alive. This blog post will introduce the detailed yet spoiler-free synopsis of the River Sing Me Home, with critical takeaways like themes, concepts, and lessons.
Introduction to the Author: Eleanor Shearer
Eleanor Shearer is the granddaughter of Windrush generation immigrants and a mixed-race author who manages her time between London and Ramsgate on the English coast.
Eleanor has a Master's degree in Politics at the University of Oxford and has studied the legacy of slavery and the case for amendments. Also, her fieldwork in St. Lucia and Barbados helped inspire her first book, River Sing Me Home.
Though she is a remarkable writer with a pop-lit yet mediocre writing style, she has the tenderness to bring compassion, empathy, and pitch-perfect prose. However, for someone new to writing, Eleanor's writing lacks emotional depth and is served as a blunt and straightforward surface-level storytelling.
Talking about her debut novel, River Sing Me Home, Shearer treats such a complex and underexamined part of history deftly and honorably. She sieves through the plot to give her readers what all good authors do: the essential without letting go of the specific and the historical.
Summary of River Sing Me Home
The plot of Shearer's powerful debut novel, River Sing Me Home, is set in the Caribbean around the time of the Slavery Abolition Act and follows a mother's journey to reunite with her children. It is an engaging tale of an enslaved woman in 1834 whose haunted soul leads her to seek the children taken from her. The story is undoubtedly heartbreaking, but it's also a message of hope, of how far a mother will go for her children and of the different types of freedom the children found.
The plot starts with the master of the Providence plantation in Barbados gathering his slaves and announcing that the King has decreed an end to slavery with the new Emancipation Act of 1834 coming into effect. However, the Master of Providence told the supposedly free slaves that they would have to work as apprentices for him for the next six years, and they weren't allowed to leave until then, so freedom definitely didn't mean freedom.
Rachel had suffered unbearable heartache over the years due to the cruelty of the Master, as one by one, her children were snatched away from her and sold. She thought an end to slavery would allow her to search for her children, so Master or no Master, she wasn't having her dreams taken from her any longer. Rachel could stand it no more and acted on her sudden urge to flee.
Away from Providence, Rachel begins a desperate search to find her five children, Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane, and Mercy, who survived birth and were sold. But is any of them still alive?
The grueling and dangerous journey takes Rachel from Barbados to deep into the forest of British Guiana and across the sea to Trinidad. The certainty compels her that a mother cannot be truly free unless she knows what has become of her children, even if the answer is unfavorable. Be in to explore the story of Rachel and the exceptional lengths to which a mother will go to find her missing children… and her freedom.
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Key Takeaways from River Sing Me Home
River Sing Me Home novel was inspired by the women and mothers in the Caribbean who, after slavery ended, really did go and try to find their stolen children.
This compelling story of a mother in search of her children powers a moving, empathetic, and dynamic novel. Shearer writes in clear, energetic prose with swift pacing and accessibility to a refreshing language. It buoys the narrative, giving readers intimate access to a complex period in history.
Shearer explains how Rachel's story is inspired by the life of Samuel Smith as described in an oral history, To Shoot Hard Labour, and was published in 1986 by his descendants. There, Smith recalls the story of his great-great-grandmother, Mother Rachael, who walked across Antigua in search of one of her daughters after slavery was abolished. Hence, this fictional account serves as a form of witnessing, an ode to the oral traditions and the slave communities it sustained.
River Sing Me Home contains mentions of sexual assault and gives a deeper perspective on the themes of slavery, family separation, and the search for loved ones.
Shearer's writing style is evocative and powerful, capturing the complex emotions and experiences of the characters with nuance and sensitivity. As you read the River Sing Me Home book, you will be drawn into the captivating story and become invested in the characters, rooting for them as they face the challenges of their journey.
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