In 1860 Julia Henderson made her will directing that her slave Rose not be sold like a brute beast, a feeble attempt to atone for the shame she bore for letting tragedy come to Rose's family, sin she would carry to her grave. Julia then decided to keep a memory journal, beginning with childhood when she woke one morning to find her father sobbing, her dead mother cradled in his arms. A slave, with cheerful little Rose in tow, was moved into their home to care for Julia and her brothers. Julia was charmed by Rose, and their half century of near sisterhood began. Rose also began to write a journal; as a child she had learned to write in Julia's "play school." The novel unfolds in the form of those interwoven journals, relating many of their shared experiences, nuanced differently by each writer. Julia adores Rose, abhors slavery, but is oblivious to her own biases. Rose returns Julia's affection with reservations; she detests being property, and having no say-so over her life. The gnarly hands of slavery encumbered them both. Both Julia and Rose were born at the turn of the 19th century on a small farm where slavery, although demeaning, was paternalistic rather than cruel. By 1860 they were living on a large cotton plantation, and writing against a background of unrest, political turmoil, and rumors of impending war. By then cruelty toward slaves, spawned by hate and fear, abounded, and laws supporting the "peculiar institution" had become nearly draconian. The journals, each in its writer's distinctive voice, tell of childhood, marriages, raising children, family separations, and deaths of loved ones. They write about the people in their lives, endearing characters, quirky ones, and some who were purely mean. And how they became tightly bound by childbirths and illness, those special intimacies reserved for women; and how other events devastated Rose, shamed Julia, and nearly broke the trust between them.
- Historical fiction
- Paperback / softback
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- United States
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