A gay historical novel tells of a love forged across class and racial lines.
Jerry Hawthorne and Daniel Cook are an unlikely pair of lovers. They are both men, and in 19th- century America, theirs is a dangerous union. They share intense memories of growing up together on the Hawthorne plantation, with Daniel a slave and Jerry the scion of the family that owned him. When they are still boys, Jerry’s father dies, throwing the future of the plantation in doubt. The slaves are afraid they will be sold, and Jerry worries he will be separated from his best friend. Jerry’s abolitionist Uncle George steps in to try to keep Daniel’s family intact, but Jerry’s mother sells the clan and the rest of the slaves without a second thought. Daniel is torn from his family after a slave auction in Memphis while Jerry runs away to try to get to New York and Uncle George. Each learns hard lessons as the years pass, with Daniel further exposed to the brutality of slavery while Jerry becomes a petty criminal in New York. But the advent of the Civil War will change the course of their lives. With emancipation, slaves are free to seek out their former families, and long-separated friends are able to discover the secret love they have for each other. Cook (Uncle Otto, 2007) writes in a conversational and breezy prose that adequately captures the energy of the time period, as when Daniel hears chatter about the coming war: “He…heard, mainly from slaves, about how bold some of the slaves had become and that some had just walked off from their plantations and nobody did anything about it.” The pacing of the book is reminiscent of a Victorian novel, with much attention paid to character development and the dynamics of the household. While some of the players feel a bit one-dimensional, the leads are compelling, and the investigation of interracial and homosexual relationships in the Civil War period should keep audiences invested in their struggles. The book is well-crafted and will likely please readers beyond those who are fans of gay fiction.
An affecting story of two souls separated by slavery and war.