cover image A More Perfect Union

A More Perfect Union

Tammye Huf. Forever, $15.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-5387-2085-1

Huf debuts with a wrenching chronicle of slavery in the U.S. inspired by the experiences of her great-great grandparents, an Irish immigrant and an enslaved Black woman. In 1848, Henry O’Toole flees the potato famine in Ireland, arriving penniless and starving in New York City. Anti-Irish prejudice keeps Henry from getting work, so he changes his surname to Taylor and heads to Virginia. After working as a blacksmith making neck rings and wrist shackles at various plantations, Henry falls in love with Sarah, an enslaved woman at Jubilee Plantation. They try to keep their illegal relationship secret, but after word gets out, the other enslaved people on the plantation bully and snub Sarah. Then, after witnessing an enslaved worker’s torture, Henry vows he will never make chains again. Narration alternates between Henry, Sarah, and Maple, an enslaved half sister of the plantation master’s wife, who causes trouble for Sarah. It seems as if Sarah will never be free after Henry’s attempts to buy her freedom fail, but the couple’s hope and bravery persist. The descriptions of pain and violence are disturbing if familiar, but this stands out by achieving the tone of a story passed down through generations. It adds up to a memorable tale of love and freedom. Agent: Louisa Pritchard, Louisa Pritchard Agency. (Jan.)