Freedom's Altar

Charles F. Price, Author
Charles F. Price, Author John F. Blair Publisher $19.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-89587-177-0
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Paperback - 291 pages - 978-0-89587-262-3
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In this sequel to his well-received Hiwassee, Price again shows that he can write absorbing and moving historical fiction. At the end of the Civil War, North Carolina judge Madison Curtis, a former slave-owning farmer, finds his prosperity has eroded with the Confederate economy. Always a kind man (even to his slaves), Curtis is conflicted by his role in the institution of slavery and is mourning the loss of two sons who died fighting for the Rebels. And he is tormented by guilt, because in 1863 he saved his family from a gang of murderous, pillaging raiders by setting the criminals on neighbors loyal to the Union. When opportunist abolitionist and vigilante lawman Nahum Bellamy the Pilot hears of the slaughter that resulted, he brings charges against the Curtis family. If convicted, the Curtises' penalty will be redistribution of their farm to freedmen, but Bellamy has more violent ideas in mind. Other key players in this drama include Daniel McFee, who has returned from fighting on the Union side to sharecrop the land he worked as a slave, but can't forgive the owner he once loved; Oliver Price, a poor white man who befriended one of the Curtis boys in the army and witnessed the tragic night with the robbers; and Andy Curtis, the family's only son to survive the war, who is laboring to keep his kin together and defeat Bellamy. Price has partially based his narrative on his family's own genealogy and that of the real Madison Curtises; while he has taken fictional liberties, his narrative has an authoritative resonance and his prose is invested with a quiet confidence. Against a fascinatingly detailed backdrop of the decaying and lawless postslavery South, Price eloquently addresses questions of race and class and morality, poignantly exploring whether hope and loyalty can exist in a world where war has damaged lives irrevocably. (Mar.)
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