Acquired Book By: I am a regular tour hostess for blog tours via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours whereupon I am thankful to have been able to host such a diverse breadth of stories, authors and wonderful guest features since I became a hostess! I received a complimentary copy of “The Underground River” direct from the publisher Touchstone (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
Why I was inspired to read The Underground River:
I’ve read quite a lot of Southern Lit, especially centred around the Underground Railroad, from the emotionally numbing debut by Tara Conklin within the pages of The House Girl to the incredibly layered drama of Redfield Farm by Judith Redline Coopey and the gutting narrative of Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez – I suppose, you could say I do not shy away from stirringly dramatic narratives which highlight a particular era in our history which can be difficult to read.
Having said that, I was hopeful this new entry on a narrative I was familiar would shine a newfound light on both the era and the Underground Railroad. Similar to my bookish friend over at The Lit Bitch, there are times where I am striving to seek out new entries of thought into either the era of time I like reading about or a particular part of the historical past, which can lend well to new interpretations and new portals of thought we might not have explored previously. This is why I was tempted by the premise of The Underground River, as I thought by taking the traditional story off land and by placing it on the water, it would endear itself to be given a new opportunity to shine.
Unfortunately for me, I was not able to find the story I was seeking as you will soon find revealled. Still. I am thankful I tried to read a novel which on the offset felt like it was finding new traction in a thread of narrative I know quite a bit about – whether or not, I could personally feel attached to the story, I am presuming other readers might feel it is better suited to their bookish interests. After all, we all cannot love all the books we’re discovering as sometimes a book which doesn’t suit us might be the story someone else has been waiting to read themselves.
The Underground River
by Martha Conway
Source: Publisher via Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours
Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this is the moving, page-turning story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love.
It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.
May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters.
As May’s secrets become more tangled and harder to keep, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for all her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to trap those who know her best.
Places to find the book:
Published by Touchstone
on 20th June, 2017
Format: Hardcover Edition
Converse via: #TheUndergroundRiver + #HistFic
Available Formats: Hardcover, Audiobook & Ebook
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: