Tuesday, July 26, 2011

When Stars Align by Carole Eglash-Kosoff

When Stars Align is an historical fiction set in the Confederate South.

Moss Grove, a cotton plantation, is owned by Jedidiah Rogers.  He adores his wife, Ruby has a deteriorating relationship with his son, Henry, and his slaves are treated well.  He has everything in life he needs and it is a good life until the day seventeen year old Henry rapes an eleven year old coloured girl in the fields, leaving her pregnant.

When Thaddeus is born, he is removed from Rose's hands and placed into the hands of the house slaves, Sarah and Jesse, who are childless.  No one is to make mention of this day, nor the fact that Thaddeus' eyes are the same shade of blue as his fathers, nor that his skin is lighter than his "birth" parents, considerably lighter.

Along the way, we learn of the hardships of the Rogers family, their trials and tribulations.  War is about to break out in the South, and Jedidiah is worried about the outcome.  He knows that a lot of things are about to change and he is at a loss as to how to control the situation that fate has set before him.

We watch as Thaddeus grows and with that, his love for a red-headed white girl named Amy, whose older sister has married Henry.  Theirs is a love that could never be, but times are changing.  The North is about to win the freedom of the slaves and the future is about to change.  No more answering to the white man as his master.  However, even those things that are meant for good, often spawn evil, and with the black person's freedom, along come such atrocities as the Ku Klux Klan and the Jim Crow laws. 

Many lives are entwined in this story of salvation as everyone works toward a future they believe would be best for all around. 

I thought this was a very good historical book set in the confederate South.  The author, Carole Eglash-Kosoff has caught the essence of the mind frame for this period in history remarkably.  She wrote in such a way that at times I was outraged at the atrocities I was reading.  She is able to draw from you the horror and the adversity that many people felt while living in this time.  You could almost feel the old southern racism oozing from the pages, especially in the character of Henry.  He is a nasty character and you cannot help but hate him from the onset.  Your left to wonder, how such a incredibly unkind man could have ever been produced by such thoughtful and loving parents.

All the characters are rich and believable, bringing a depth to the story that will keep you wanting to know more as you watch their lives grow.  One couldn't imagine the book without any of the characters involved, they belong in this story, giving the book, its breath.

The book is wrought with coarse language, heavy graphic nature and yes, the frequent use of the word, "nigger".  However, none of that is written in an offensive way, just in a truthful way for the period in which the book was set.  It works with the plot, giving you an in depth feel to the whole "ole south" mentality for the times.  You also see how many people joined in with the confederates, not everyone wanted to run off to freedom.  There are many free-born, mulattos, natives and black, who have sided with the South and you are given a glimpse into each of the thoughts and actions of each of the classes of people.

At times the writer drifted off given the reader a few mediocre fillers that I thought were unnecessary to the overall plot nor to build up suspense, however, you read through them quickly.  It is a long read, over three hundred and fifty pages and the type is small, it is not a subject, nor a book, to take lightly, but it is definitely worth the read!!

The love that Thaddeus and Amy feel for one another can get them both killed. He is colored, an ex-slave, and she is white. In 19th century Louisiana mixed race relationships are both illegal and unacceptable.

Moss Grove, a large Mississippi River cotton plantation has thrived from the use of slave labor while its owners lived lives of comfort and privilege. Thaddeus, born more than a decade earlier from the rape of a young field slave by the heir to the plantation, is raised as a Moss Grove house servant. His presence remains a thorn in the side of the man who sired him.

Deepening divisiveness between North and South launches the Civil War and changes Moss Grove in ways no one could have anticipated. With the war swirling we see the battles and carnage through Thaddeus' eyes. The war ends and he returns to Moss Grove and to Amy, hoping to enjoy their newly won freedoms. With the help of Union soldiers, schools are established to educate those who were formerly prohibited from learning to read. Medical clinics are opened and businesses begun. Black legislators are elected and help to pass new laws. Hope flourishes. Perhaps the stars will now finally align for the young lovers.

In 1876, however, the ex-Confederate states barter the selection of President Rutherford B. Hayes for removal of all Union troops from their soil in the most contested election in American history. Within a decade hopes are dashed as Jim Crow laws are passed, the Ku Klux Klan launches new violence, and black progress is crushed.

'When Stars Align' is a soaring novel of memorable white, Negro and colored men and women set against actual historic events.

** Disclosure: I did not accept any compensation from the sponsors other than review copies, my views are my own, reviewed by me..as I see it~!! **