In a vastly ambitious and intensely moving novel, the author of Cambridge creates a many-tongued chorus of the African diaspora in the complex and riveting story of a desperate father who sells his three children into slavery.
The novel consists of four chapters sandwiched within brief introductory and concluding passages. In the introductory section, a father sells his three children - Nash, Martha and Travis - into slavery. These children become the "broken off limbs of a tree" seeking to sink "hopeful roots into difficult soil in distant lands", the protagonists of three of the chapters, scattered in both place and time. The four chapters that follow are essentially three discrete short stories and a concluding novella: the only interlinking between these disparate stories is that the protagonists share names with the three children mentioned in the novel's opening which make it questionable whether this work has sufficient structural cohesion to be termed a novel.
The first chapter relates the story of Nash Williams, a former slave returning to 'the pagan coast' of Africa, to 'civilise' and convert to Christianity natives away from Monrovia in Sierra Leone. Nash's story is told primarily through letters written in the 1830s and early 1840s to his American (white) father.Read more ›