Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Good Lord Bird

By James McBride

The story of abolitionist John Brown as told by a young slave boy he rescued. The story starts in the Kansas territory when the boy Henry's father is shot during a confrontation between Brown and some pro-slavery advocates. Brown carried the boy off, making the mistaken assumption that Henry was actually a Henrietta, a charade that Henry goes along with. At first Henry tries to return several times to his owner but the attempts fail for various reasons. Later on he realizes returning would be a mistake and he remains with Brown and continues to masquerade as a girl.
Brown, Henry and others spend some time rushing around Kansas, getting into various battles. Henry gets to meet Harriet Tubman when Brown goes to Canada to raise money and volunteers. He also spends quite some time living with Frederick Douglass, another of Brown's supporters.
Henry is in the thick of the planning for the raid on Harper's Ferry and its sorry aftermath.

Henry/Henrietta dismisses most of what Brown intends as craziness. He doesn't have much respect for Brown's religious convictions or his zeal for ending slavery. Mainly he sticks by Brown because he really has nowhere else to go. And through Henry's rather skeptical eyes the reader gets to live a bit of American history in an interesting and absorbing story.

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