In her debut historical fiction, Stanard gives voice to slaves, shedding light on the darker side of antebellum American history.
Kedzie, a young slave girl living in the town of St. Helenaville, S.C., is the property of Mistress Ridley. Kedzie’s master treats her more like a daughter than a slave, but when her mistress unexpectedly dies, Kedzie is sent to live on a plantation where a very different life awaits her. No longer a house servant, she finds herself toiling in the cotton fields and dwelling in slave quarters. Kedzie’s account gives the book a stroke of realism and believability, which help evoke powerful sensory images of plantation life. As Kedzie describes the shack she shares with three other slaves, readers can almost smell the wood-burning fire and feel the dank, oppressive heat. Incorporating what appears to be a great deal of research, Stanard has the remarkable ability to immerse the reader in the unstable times of the antebellum South. The frantic pace of the story gives a palpable sense of urgency to Kedzie’s predicament, all while speeding toward its eventual resolution. Neutral character descriptions are doled out in bits and pieces throughout the book. Kedzie’s new master, for instance, is no doubt a vile, loathsome human being, but such harsh adjectives like these aren’t employed. Instead, his acts are described in lurid detail, leaving it up to the reader to assess his virtue. All the players, both good and bad, are given this treatment, except for certain members of the master’s family who are somewhat neglected, which can lead to a bit of confusion when they infrequently appear in the narrative.
A stellar, heart-wrenching chronicle of human bondage.