Twelve-year-old convicted felon Oliver is transported to the American Colonies to avoid the hangman’s noose, but he finds his situation as an enslaved felon there is nearly as deadly in this sequel to The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts (2017).
In London in the early 18th century, children and adults alike face harsh punishment for minor crimes. Rather than face death, many are offered a term of servitude in the New World. Those who can survive the trans-Atlantic crossing, with its cramped spaces, filthy conditions, and sparse rations, face harsh treatment at the hands of ruthless masters. In Maryland, Oliver is purchased by a cruel man who refuses him even basic necessities. Once on the plantation, Oliver meets Bara, an enslaved boy from Guinea, who teaches him to cultivate tobacco and how to avoid dying at the hands of their master. While freedom is always at the forefront of Oliver’s mind, he also longs to reunite with his sister, Charity, also sold into servitude. Told in appropriately 18th-century diction, Oliver’s picaresque is a harrowing page-turner that takes an unflinching look at what life was like for those living in servitude in the American Colonies. Oliver is quietly heroic but also realistic as he endures his fate. African Bara, though seen through white Oliver’s eyes, is given trope-defying agency, his intelligence and superior knowledge of the territory and customs putting him in the lead but never at Oliver’s service. Brief backmatter gives historical context to this sequel.
Action-packed and inspirational—another stunner. (Historical fiction. 8-12)