A more perfect union by Tammye Huf

cover image

The illicit love between impoverished Irish immigrant, Henry, and black slave woman, Sarah, in pre-Civil War Virginia, is at the heart of this novel, which, whilst being over 350 pages long, rushes along with short chapters interleaving their stories. It is hard to put down, the writing is so good and the characters so real; in fact they are based on the author’s own great-great grandparents’ experiences plus a great deal of research into the slave era in America.

It is an enthralling and tender story, and in itself would be satisfying enough for most readers, but Huf takes it to another level by also including the voice of Maple, the illegitimate black daughter of a slave owner forced into servitude to her half-sister and torn from the only family she knows. It is her bitterness and her powerlessness that really drives home the reality of the life of the slave, with no say, no power over her own destiny, subject to the whims and desires of her masters, knowing that any wrong step could end in a whipping.

Sarah and Maple’s master prides himself on being a Christian, a kind and just man to his slaves. But it is kindness on his own terms. His brand of Christianity does not tolerate any kind of intimate relationship between the righteous whites and the blacks deemed their inferiors. He makes all the decisions on who the slaves may mix with, who they may marry, where they shall live and the work they are allotted. Sarah declares that ‘slave suffering is a different thing. When somebody owns you, there ain’t nothing they can’t do to you.’

The tension builds as Sarah and Henry take greater and greater risks to be together. It is a thoroughly immersive reading experience. Lovers of historical fiction and romance will certainly enjoy this novel.

Themes: Slavery, Romance, Black women, Freedom, Racism.

Helen Eddy