A newly emancipated young woman finds love and tragedy as she marches to freedom during the Civil War
When Union soldiers suddenly arrive declaring emancipation, Mariah quickly gathers a few belongings and sets off with her younger brother Zeke and members of their chosen family, a “family forced and forged under slavery’s brutal reign,” as blood relatives were sold, hired out, or killed. On the day Mariah and her loved ones are freed, they join Sherman’s march through Georgia, and she meets Caleb, a young man on the march. Mariah and Caleb are drawn to each other, but both are weighed down by the painful secrets from their pasts. As the freed men, women, and children travel closer to the promise of a new life, they face the harsh realities of the march—and the uncertainty. Mariah and Caleb’s unforgettable story is everything historical fiction should be: informative, engrossing, and unflinching. In recounting the vicious treatment Mariah and others endured while enslaved, Bolden exposes the savagery of slavery. The resiliency and ingenuity of enslaved people in the face of such cruelty are also conveyed in heart-rending detail. Some readers may be shocked by the violence and exploitation formerly enslaved people also experienced at the hands of the Union soldiers charged with freeing them.
A poetic, raw, and extraordinary imagining of a little-known, shameful chapter in American history. (Historical fiction. 13-adult)