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River Sing Me Home

by Eleanor Shearer

River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer X
River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
  • Critics' Opinion:

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  • First Published:
    Jan 2023, 336 pages

    Aug 2023, 352 pages


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There are currently 35 reader reviews for River Sing Me Home
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Linda K. (Sunset, SC)

River Sing Me Home
Loved the central figure of the story, Rachel, a slave on a plantation, from page one. I truly felt that I was on her journey to find her five children that had been taken from her either by force or stolen in her absence.
Each child was so special to her and fleeing from slavery at great peril drove her on the journey around the Caribbean and South America to find them.

Rachel's great inner strength and resilience was the core of the story...so inspiring. Having a very difficult time recently myself, I found myself reflecting on what Rachel faced and
drawing on her strength as a morther to confront my own loss.

The interesting mix of characters made for a great read that showed gritty determination to complete the journey...with ample adversity along the way with some very scary moments. A wonderful story and the best in a long time for me.
Dee Dee (Incline Village, NV)

A part of history that you may not be familiar with
I was attracted to reading this book because of its place. I spent 10 years sailing the Caribbean basin in a sailboat, getting to know the people and the cultures. I was looking for the essence of the islands and Eleanor Shearer captured it beautifully. Her elegantly lyrical writing took me back; I could smell the salty air, feel the hot humid forests and the oppression of Port of Spain, Trinidad.

Traveling through this area of the world I learned the history of the American Revolution Loyalists who relocated their plantations along with their slaves to the British Caribbean Possessions. The author individualizes this story through the life of Rachel, a slave, during the start of when the UK abolishes slavery, but the slaves are still not totally free. This book fills in some the gaps that I had learned in an engaging story of the will of the slaves to become free at all costs; their pain, loss, dislocation but also their newfound hope to be reunited with families and children.

If you like historical fiction and would like to learn about this part of world, I would highly recommend this book.
Power Reviewer
Beverly J. (Hoover, AL)

Smart, Original, & Completely Captivating
A keenly observed lyrical historical novel about an enslaved mother's resolve to search for her five children sold away from her.

When the plantation master in Barbados announces in one breath that The Emancipation Act of 1834 abolishes slavery providing, but in the next breath takes all that joy away when stating the enslaved are now "apprentices" for the next six years and cannot leave the plantation without grave consequences, Rachel decides to take her freedom now and runs away with a cruel overseer on her heels.

This is a compelling and heart-wrenching read of a mostly ignored fact that upmost in the minds/hopes/dreams of enslaved peoples was to reunite with family members.

Through Rachel's journey with impossible odds and insurmountable obstacles to learn the truth of what happened to her children, the storylines explores how she and each of her children defined freedom for themselves in the cruel world they inhabit.

Shearer is a splendid storyteller and has written an absorbing and thoughtful as well as tense and exciting tale.
Rita H. (Centennial, CO)

A Mother's Love
The story of slavery in the Carribbean has only recently entered my knowledge base and this book expanded that to the searches that former slaves made to find the children who had been sold away from them. Rachel has been a slave all her life and has borne five living children, all of whom were taken from her at very young ages. Now the British have declared all slaves in Providence to be free. However, their owners meet this with a new announcement of their own: the former slaves are now apprentices with six more years of labor owed to their former masters. Rachel decides to run away even though she is trapped on an island. With the help other former slaves, she looks for her children even though she is constantly in danger of being found by agents of her former master and returned to to that life. She searches the larger city of Bridgetown, the many plantations on the island and even goes across the ocean to Trinidad.

This is an amazing and moving story of a mother's love and determination and I was definitely intrigued. The story is well-written, moves at a good pace and rings true. I think it would be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys historical fiction and wants to know more about this area of the world.
Cindy R. (North Miami Beach, FL)

Mother's Quest
River Sing Me Home (Berkley) by Eleanor Shearer is inspired by the true stories of the brave woman who went looking for their stolen children after the abolition of slavery in 1834. It's hard to believe it's a debut novel, because Shearer's prose and narrative are so powerful and complex. River Sing Me Home is the story of Rachel, a woman slave who has given birth repeatedly and had five children survive only to be taken away and sold.

The British King declares the Emancipation Act effectively ending slavery, but the plantation owners announce they are now apprentices and have to work on the plantation for six more years. It's at this point Rachel decides to run and search for her five children. She doesn't know if any of them are alive, but she is driven by the fact, a mother cannot be free without knowing what has become of her children.

She begins her dangerous journey in Barbados, then on a river deep in the forest of British Guiana and finally across the sea to Trinidad. She's always aware that she is technically not free, she's being hunted and if found can be taken back as a slave at any time.

River Sing Me Home is Rachel's extraordinary story to find out what happened to Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy. It is the deeply brutal and moving story of the astonishing lengths a mother will go to find her children... and her freedom.

I love reading historical fiction, respect history and I'm grateful to have learned about this time in the past. From the beginning of the book I was thrust into Rachel's dangerous journey. River Sing Me Home is a fearless, hopeful, and loving read. I often found myself holding my breath during her search. Thank you BookBrowse, Netgalley and Berkley for providing an early copy of this novel, which will be published January 31st, 2023.
Amy S. (Tucson, AZ)

A Mother's Love Endures
First off, what an amazing look at this point in time in history. I was fascinated by the history of emancipation in British controlled territory, in territories not often written about. After reading this novel, it is obvious there is still so much I do not know about slavery. I am so grateful to Eleanor Shearer for telling this story through the eyes and heart of a mother.

The hard labor, the beatings, the lack of medical care and enough food, having freedom given and then taken away—these injustices are horrific enough. Then add losing the only people to bring you hope and joy… someone hurting your babies and not being able to do a thing to stop it…

This was a powerful story of a mother reclaiming what is hers. Forty years is a long time to live without hope. Rachel shows us what one small sliver can become. Shearer's prose is beautiful, and it wrapped itself around my heart like a song.
Ora J. (Anacortes, WA)

River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
With a powerful command of English, Eleanor Shearer led me into the world of slavery in Barbados in 1834 when England withdrew from trading in slaves. Freedom did not come to the field hands of the Caribbean plantations. They were now designated as apprentices and legally bound for six more years of labor.
Rachel ran. She ran in search of freedom, a reality unknown to this woman, forty years a slave. A journey in search of the children, torn from her arms, sold to other plantations, became the hope that kept her moving. The fear of being recognized and sent back to Barbados was always greater than the struggle to stay alive.
River Sing Me Home is based on the historic realities of what happened after the English Emancipation of slaves. Eleanor Shearer is a woman of Caribbean heritage, and a master's degree student who studied the phenomenon of mothers seeking to bring their families together. Her creative use of language plus her deep connection to her peoples' need for freedom, kept me tied closely to every word.
Celia P. (Melbourne, FL)

A Mother's Love
The author clearly states her laudable reason for writing this book:

... to bring to life a story about the Caribbean in the aftermath of slavery - a time and place that is not well known or widely understood.

Rachel is the main character - a mother of many; some sold away from her; some died of fever.

She searches for those sold across the Caribbean in 3 different countries: Barbados, British Guiana, and Trinidad.

This story of a mother's love and her painful search for her daughters is compelling.

The three different locales that it includes made it a must read for a world literature lover such as myself.

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