Chasing the North Star: Book summary and reviews of Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan

Chasing the North Star

A Novel

by Robert Morgan

Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan X
Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan
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Book Summary

The story of Jonah Williams, who on his eighteenth birthday flees the South Carolina plantation on which he was born a slave

In his latest historical novel, bestselling author Robert Morgan brings to full and vivid life the story of Jonah Williams, who, in 1850, on his eighteenth birthday, flees the South Carolina plantation on which he was born a slave. He takes with him only a few stolen coins, a knife, and the clothes on his back--no shoes, no map, no clear idea of where to head, except north, following a star that he prays will be his guide.

Hiding during the day and running through the night, Jonah must elude the men sent to capture him and the bounty hunters out to claim the reward on his head. There is one person, however, who, once on his trail, never lets him fully out of sight: Angel, herself a slave, yet with a remarkably free spirit.

In Jonah, she sees her own way to freedom, and so sets out to follow him.

Bristling with breathtaking adventure, Chasing the North Star is deftly grounded in historical fact yet always gripping and poignant as the story follows Jonah and Angel through the close calls and narrow escapes of a fearsome world. It is a celebration of the power of the human spirit to persevere in the face of great adversity. And it is Robert Morgan at his considerable best.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Morgan…presents the reader with a convincing and richly imagined experience." - Booklist

"Morgan's latest is a grittily entertaining, smartly paced narrative about a fugitive slave. Morgan is a first-rate storyteller; he plots his novel extremely well, and readers will find this journey captivating." - Publishers Weekly

"A powerful, gripping, and unrelenting tale of wilderness survival under the most dire of circumstances in the pursuit of freedom: another outstanding work of historical fiction from Morgan." - Kirkus Reviews

"Chasing the North Star is an epic journey, and Morgan's vision of our dark past shines brilliantly detailed, deeply satisfying, and ultimately hopeful." - Charles Frazier, author of Nightwoods and Cold Mountain

"Chasing the North Star has the gravity of the old slave narratives, and the blood-chilling action of a contemporary action thriller. The language reflects Morgan's deep connection to the land and the tradition ... Jonah Williams is a hero for the ages. Reading of his courage and humanity puts starch in your spine. A must read." - Randal Kenan, author of Walking on Water

This information about Chasing the North Star was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. Publication information is for the USA, and (unless stated otherwise) represents the first print edition. The reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that they do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, send us a message with the mainstream reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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FictionZeal

Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan
Johah Williams is a slave on a plantation in South Carolina. It’s 1850; well before the Civil War and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. He’s Mrs. William’s house slave serving her two children. When the children are taught their lessons, Jonah listens. From those lessons, he teaches himself to read … it was illegal for a slave to read. Mrs. Williams catches him with a book he’d borrowed from their massive library. He thought he’d be beaten. Instead, she arranged for Jonah to read to her from the Bible every day. It was their secret. She even gave him a Bible of his own. This Bible “had letters the size of gnats and hairs. But it was the prettiest book he’d ever seen ….” While Mrs. Williams was away visiting her sister, Jonah was reading in the barn loft. Mr. Williams caught him, accused him of stealing the books, and beat him. It was then that Jonah decided he would seek freedom. That night, he took the jar of coins his mama had collected; a knife from the kitchen; and a hat and headed northward.

When he could, he’d travel by night. When men with guns and dogs were after him, he’d seek water to throw off his scent. After a few nights, he happened onto a ‘Jubilee’. He saw a fire blazing and other Negroes dancing and chanting. It’s there he met Angel. She was also a house slave. The master was using her as his bed warmer. She decided if Jonah could run away, she could run, too. He tried a few times to leave her behind, but she always managed to reappear back in his life.

The character of Jonah was so well-crafted that I could believe he was real as opposed to fictional. He literally traveled by foot, boat, wagon, and train on his journey seeking freedom. The trip was hard not only because he’d be beaten and possibly killed if he were captured and returned to Master Williams, but also because the terrain was perilous and the weather unforgiving. Angel added something very special to this story. As much as Jonah was ‘book smart’, she was ‘street smart’. They complimented each other in ways that Jonah refused to acknowledge. When the synopsis tells us that Angel manages to find Jonah even though he tried to leave her behind, I thought this would be too coincidental to be believable. But it was all very convincing. If you like books in which you can emotionally immerse yourself, you’ll love this story of Jonah’s arduous pursuit of freedom. Rating: 5 out of 5.

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Author Information

Robert Morgan Author Biography

Robert Morgan was raised on his family's farm in the North Carolina mountains. He is the author of eleven books of poetry, three books of nonfiction, and eight books of fiction, including the bestselling novel Gap Creek. He lives in Ithaca, New York, where he teaches at Cornell University. He won the Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature in 2007.

Author Interview
Link to Robert Morgan's Website

Other books by Robert Morgan at BookBrowse
  • Gap Creek jacket
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