Thursday, 5 January 2017

Review: The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock

I have been to hangings before, but never my own.

Sitting in a jail cell on the eve of his hanging, April 1, 1875, freedman Persimmon “Persy” Wilson wants nothing more than to leave some record of the truth—his truth. He may be guilty, but not of what he stands accused: the kidnapping and rape of his former master’s wife.

In 1860, Persy had been sold to Sweetmore, a Louisiana sugar plantation, alongside a striking, light-skinned house slave named Chloe. Their deep and instant connection fueled a love affair and inspired plans to escape their owner, Master Wilson, who claimed Chloe as his concubine. But on the eve of the Union Army’s attack on New Orleans, Wilson shot Persy, leaving him for dead, and fled with Chloe and his other slaves to Texas. So began Persy’s journey across the frontier, determined to reunite with his lost love. Along the way, he would be captured by the Comanche, his only chance of survival to prove himself fierce and unbreakable enough to become a warrior. His odyssey of warfare, heartbreak, unlikely friendships, and newfound family would change the very core of his identity and teach him the meaning and the price of freedom.

Hardcover, 336 pages
Expected publication: January 17th 2017 by Atria Books
Genre: Historical Fiction

Kristine's Thoughts:

** I received an advanced readers copy from Simon and Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

This will be the first review that I post in 2017 and I couldn't be happier that it ended up being The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson. What a positive way to start out the New Year. By positive I don't mean the content of the book because it was anything but. What I mean is by discussing a book that I enjoyed tremendously.

I have been to hangings before, but never my own.

That one sentenced had me hooked from the very first page. I do believe that once I read it I let out an overly dramatic sigh and thought to myself that this book was going to be a doozy. We first met Persimmon (Persy) Wilson in a jail cell in Drunken Bride Texas where he was preparing for his eventual hanging by trying to write his life story to explain how it was that he ended up there. Unsure if anyone would read his words he was determined to get it all on paper in the off chance that even one person would read it. He wanted someone to know his truth.

His story was a sweeping story from his time as a slave on a sugar plantation in Louisiana, to fighting for his freedom and then eventually his time as a Comanche warrior. Throughout all of it there was one constant and that was his love for Chloe, the house slave at Sweetmore. It was this love that was the footprint of his story and also the cause of his impending hanging.

Historical fiction remains one of my favourite genres and this book is a perfect example of why. It took a place and time that I knew little about and put it front and centre. It gave me a taste of a time in the past that I can't even begin to comprehend or understand because I wasn't there. Showcased was a dark and ugly time in American history. It may have been fictional but it fed my thirst to learn more about that time. It wasn't always easy to swallow and there were parts of the story that were hard to take but it was all necessary for the bigger picture.

I want to say that I really liked Persy (for the most part I did) but even he did things that made me cringe. I understand that it was part necessity and part the hand he was dealt but he had some less than honourable moments which lead to a story that was realistic and believable.

I loved every minute of Persy's journey and I flew through the pages. It was a story with more darkness and heartache than sunshine and happiness but it was very well written and it captured my heart. This haunting story will certainly stay with me for a very long time.



About the Author
Nancy Peacock is the author of the novels Life Without Water (a New York Times Notable Book) and Home Across the Road, as well as the memoir A Broom of One's Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning and Life. She teaches writing classes and workshops in and around Hillsborough, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Ben.

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