The story, which follows kind-hearted Christian slave Uncle Tom, is a tale of disaster – and slave owners promising freedom and next thing you know, they are unexpectedly dead. Is that related? Apparently so.

Uncle Tom, who lived on a farm with his family, has a master who promises him freedom and then is forced to sell him to a despicable slave driver for money. His son promises to get him back.

In the meantime, slave Eliza Harris and her young son decide to flee to Canada to escape slavers – with a heroic and desperate flight through icebergs at one point to reach relative safety from the baying hounds.

The less lucky Tom is shipped off to another farm where disaster strikes again as his master unexpectedly dies before approving Tom’s freedom.

What happens next is a gut-renching account of life at a plantation.

This book is painful. I’ve tried to read it several years wih no success, because I have had to put it down in anger. The injustice, the violence, the needless cruelty – it was overwhelming and seeped through the pages to sharp effect.

I am glad that I finished it – having an account that doesn’t try to gloss over or romanticise this ghastly part of US history holds a power unto its own for the next generation. Sure, Uncle Tom may not have been real, but his story is that of thousands of others whose stories are real and untold. Too often do stories untold fall through the cracks of history.

Let’s just say I wouldn’t have lasted long back when plantations were the talk of the day.

Favourite quote: “O, I’ve seen things all my life that have made me feel that there can’t be a God. You Christians don’t know how these things look to us. There’s a God for you, but is there any for us?”

This review is part of the 1000 before 30 challenge — find out more about it here!

Featured image: Creative commons picture courtesy of Pat Henson
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