Book Review

River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer | Book Review

River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
Release Date: 31st January 2023
Genre: Adult, Historical
Source: Publisher, NetGalley
Rating: ★★★.5

The master of the Providence plantation in Barbados gathers his slaves and announces the king has decreed an end to slavery. As of the following day, the Emancipation Act of 1834 will come into effect. The cries of joy fall silent when he announces that they are no longer his slaves; they are now his apprentices. No one can leave. They must work for him for another six years. Freedom is just another name for the life they have always lived. So Rachel runs.

Away from Providence, she begins a desperate search to find her children–the five who survived birth and were sold. Are any of them still alive? Rachel has to know. The grueling, dangerous journey takes her from Barbados then, by river, deep into the forest of British Guiana and finally across the sea to Trinidad. She is driven on by the certainty that a mother cannot be truly free without knowing what has become of her children, even if the answer is more than she can bear. These are the stories of Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy. But above all this is the story of Rachel and the extraordinary lengths to which a mother will go to find her children…and her freedom.

I love supporting debut authors and I love exploring different countries through books, so when River Sing Me Home popped up on my feed I knew I had to try it.

River Sing Me Home is set in the Caribbean in the 1800’s, just after Britain put the Emancipation Act into law. Unfortunately, there were loopholes that the plantation owners took advantage of, and so it wasn’t necessarily the breakthrough that we thought.

This book doesn’t really focus on what happened due to this Act going into effect, though, as the main character immediately runs away when she realises what it could mean. Rachel is determined to find her missing children, and she will travel around the Caribbean in order to do so.

I really liked the concept of this book and the history that was written into it. It is clear that Shearer has done a tonne of research, and I enjoyed reading her author’s note which talks a bit more about what went into this.

Unfortunately, where I think this book fell short was the pacing. Every time Rachel arrived in a new place, she found out what happened to one of her children. Really easily, and quickly, before she was on to the next one. We didn’t really get a chance to get into Rachel’s head and see what she was feeling each time.

I feel like River Sing Me Home was lacking a bit of emotional connection to the main character and her thoughts and feelings. It was still an emotional book, but I feel like the author was trying to do too much with this book with not enough practice or pages. I think it could have been bulked out with an extra 50 or 100 pages to really dig in to what the author was trying to do.

Overall though River Sing Me Home is a solid and heartbreaking debut. I really enjoyed reading it, and it was a good look into this particular point in history. I’m really looking forward to reading this author’s next book, and I hope she tackles more historical fiction as you can tell this is a subject that she really cares about!

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