Book Review: ‘Freeman’
Author: By Leonard Pitts Jr.
You’ll always remember the break-up.
It started with a he-said, she-said moment forever burned in your mind. You remember where you stood, the words that were said (or not), the anger, and the queasy feeling that a mistake was about to be made, but you didn’t know whose it was.
Relationships come and go, but you never forget your first love and you never forget losing it, either.
And yet, what if you were separated by something beyond your mutual control? Would it be easy to find that love together again? In the new novel “Freeman” by Leonard Pitts Jr. (c.2012, Agate Bolden, $16.00 / $18.50 Canada, 432 pages), one man aims to find out.
He called himself Sam because that’s what she’d said he looked like he was. A “Sam,” and he told her she looked like a Tilda. So that’s what they called one another, even though Mistress had given them ridiculous Greek names when she brought them to her plantation.
Sam had fallen in love with Tilda in that naming minute, and they were inseparable. Mistress let them live together. They had a child together, too, but then Luke was killed and Sam was sold away.
Tilda was angry then, and she had a right to be. Sam hadn’t allowed himself to think of that, or of her, for 15 years, but once the North beat the South he figured it was time to leave Philadelphia and find his wife.
Prudence Cafferty Kent was only acting on the deathbed wishes of her father.
With his last breath, he’d told her that he wanted her to go to Mississippi, where his plantation was, and build a school for Negro children soon as the war was over. Prudence was strong-willed and single-minded, but she knew she couldn’t do it without Bonnie’s help.
Bonnie was a toddler when, years before, the Captain had purchased her, immediately freed her, and raised her as his own. Prudence couldn’t remember life before Bonnie. They were sisters, even though one was milky-white and one was not.
When the Yankees came through and burned what was left of James McFarland’s plantation, Marse Jim went a little crazy. Maybe it was because the Yankees killed his son, Tilda wasn’t sure.
She hated Marse Jim, but she felt sorry for him, too. She knew what it was like to lose a child. She’d lost love, too…
Have you ever read a book so good that you forgot you were reading? Yes, that’s what it’s like reading “Freeman.”
Author Leonard Pitts Jr. serves up a novel that’s both ugly and beautiful, with characters that you’ll feel honored to know, though it’ll hurt. This novel throws you down in the aftermath of war and pushes your face into it—gently, and then rubs. That’s a conundrum, for sure, but it’s also one of the finest Civil War novels I’ve ever had.
If you promised yourself one decent book this summer, then look no further because this is it.
Read three pages of “Freeman” and you’ll know that this isn’t a story you’ll soon forget.
“No” is a foreign word.
It’s something you simply cannot understand. It just doesn’t compute. Not in your vocabulary.
When you want something—whether it’s a boy, a job, a grade, a pet, or a new gadget you must have— ain’t nobody better say that word to you because you don’t get it.
It. Just. Doesn’t. Make. Sense.
Everybody looks different, but they haven’t changed a bit.
The classmates at your reunion got older, that’s for sure. Some have gotten a little wider, a bit grayer, too, and more lined than they were decades ago.
What’s funny, though, is that while you were reminiscing with these former-classmates-cum-friends, you didn’t notice gray hair. You didn’t see extra pounds or new wrinkles. You only saw children, the way they were in school.
They say the economy’s getting better.
Ever since you were a toddler, you knew your colors.
Your mother would ask you to get your blue car, and blue was what she got. You’d never bring her something red if she asked for yellow.
Green army men? Oh, yeah. You could find them because you learned your colors, just as naturally as you learned to talk.
But are you color-blind?
When the doctor said you needed a booster shot, it made you wince.
You’re all grown up, and you know that a vaccine is nothing but a poke, a sting, and lots of protection. No big deal.
So why is there a little-kid part of you that wants to wail, when the needle approaches your arm (or worse)?