Thursday, 9 July 2009

The Light Across the River, by Stephanie Reed

Following on from book one, Across The Wide River, this sequel continues the story of one family's involvement in the Underground Railroad. This time it's told by Johnny Rankin, a young man growing up with an enormous secret: his whole family regularly offers aid to escaping slaves.

Johnny finds it more than just plain difficult not to tell anyone about the amazing adventures of his father and older brothers - and later on, his own. Yet he's not short on bravery, often facing up to the town bullies and slave hunters who threaten to obliterate the illicit activities. Certainly not illicit in the eyes of God, says Johnny's father by his actions, again and again.

But it's not just Johnny's story - far from it. We also get a deep view into the lives of slaves who long to be free, and what it was like to be on the run, in danger for their lives. Eliza, herself a grandmother, escapes with her own babe in arms across the treacherously unstable spring-melted ice of the Ohio river, towards the light set up in the Rankin house on the hill. She goes on to become Johnny's friend and he becomes more involved in the rescue of the family she was forced to leave behind.

We see Johnny changing from boy to man, and Eliza from slave to free. Johnny eventually tells an author of Eliza's river crossing, later made famous in 'Uncle Tom's Cabin.' All of these connections are based in actual history - the Rankin family, Eliza's tale, and the author who wrote it down - all are true historical figures, brought to life here by wonderful immersive settings.

Gripping from start to end, suitable for young readers, this book plunges you into the reality that was the Underground Railroad in Ohio of the 1800's.

Check out these other member blogs this week for more info.

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