'This book appeared out of the darkness... an unsettling experience, trying to use all of the senses other than sight... and then a voice... clear as day... a boy in the pitch black with me... and he believed he'd been brought there by God.'
That voice belongs to Samuel, and it's as real and true as any voice you'll find between the pages of a book. From the opening paragraph, I was sucked in by its vulnerability and unwavering faith. What follows is Samuel's sale to a slave-trader by the priest who runs his orphanage. From this point Samuel is given the name of Friday and is taken to a cotton plantation where he spends most of the book, until the American Civil War comes to his doorstep and the boy escapes. I especially loved this part, where Friday escapes to freedom, reclaiming his own name. And even though he is nearly killed by a mortar, he is unrelenting in his quest to be reunited with his little brother. This is a book about fate, loyalty, freedom, love, hope and family. As a teacher, I especially loved the theme that education is the axe to break the chains of slavery. I also loved Samuel's journey from darkness on page one to light on the final line - 'Some time soon I'll stand in sunshine.'
This story of slavery and cruelty and the American Civil War is one which feels familiar to us, and though history isn't something I normally like to read, when I do, this is how I like to do it - with a book that's not fuelled by historical events, but by the loves and losses of a character that is so real, you feel he is sitting beside you. Highly recommended.