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Saturday, September 01, 2007

Department of Books Reports 31: Soul Catcher

Augustus Cain is a restless man. Deeply scarred by his military service during the Mexican War, he is now a drinker and a gambler. After one hard night of doing both, he finds that he has lost his most prized possession, his horse in a game of chance. The beast’s new owner, a Mr. Eberly, a landed Southern aristocrat has a proposition for Cain, though. Eberly has had two of his slaves escape to the North. Cain can have his horse back, as well as some remuneration, if he, Cain, will capture the escapees and return them. Cain, who thought himself done with his previous occupation, a tracker of fugitive slaves, a “Soul Catcher”, takes to the trail one more time. Accompanied by three other employees of Eberly, Cain makes his way North, passing through John Brown’s farm in New York, and ultimately to Boston, where he finds the fugitive, Rosetta, abducts her, and begins the journey back to the South. But Rosetta is not just any slave. She has a history with her ‘owner’, and resists her return to the plantation. And in learning her history, her manner of thinking and being, Augustus finds that it is his own soul that is caught.
Michael White’s new novel is extraordinary, nuanced in its details, and compelling. White supplies a panoramic view of America on the verge of Civil War. His characterizations are finely etched, including Augustus’ traveling companions, Eberly, as well as the legendary John Brown. Augustus, himself, is a complex man, a long-time reader of Milton’s Paradise Lost, who is trapped by History, his own, and that of our Nation’s. The climatic scene is well-imagined, as that History is finally confronted, in violence and freedom.
SeattleTammy and I read an advance copy of this book about two months ago, and both of us were impressed with the power and sweep of the prose. Michael White is one fine writer. The book is now available at Jackson Street Books and other fine independent bookstores. Both of us give it two thumbs up, and for you Melungeon freaks, that’s four thumbs up!

I wanted to say in passing, that I lament that Liberty’s on-going novel In Country has been pulled from the threads. I thought her writing was very good. I liked the idea of an on-going serial, much like the heyday of Dickens and Thackeray; and this story of people caught in a time of war felt contemporary and fresh. Perhaps SeattleTammy and I were a bit naive, although honored, when we first started writing book reports here. We knew that this site was not just national in scope, but international. But we weren’t so aware of the magnitude of people who visit here, which is fairly staggering. It takes a brave soul to expose oneself on such a grand scale. In Country was a bold departure for a political satire site, and I, for one, will miss it.

democommie™™™™®© is busy escaping from Maggie’s Farm and Maggie’s brother.
We still haven't heard from raindogzilla, who has a Darwin Award Prize package awaiting him, and other joke-tellers should also check in with us! The back room has towering stacks of ARCs we'd love to mail off to our participants.

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We'll try dumping haloscan and see how it works.