cover image For One Day of Freedom

For One Day of Freedom

Blyden B. Jackson Jr. Antibookclub, $16 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-953862-06-8

A young man strives to escape from slavery in this blistering epic from Jackson (Operation Burning Candle), a novelist and civil rights activist known for his contributions to the Black thriller genre of the 1960s and ’70s who died in 2012. Jubel plans his escape on the eve of cotton-picking season and upon the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which demands that all people who escaped from slavery must be captured and returned to their “owners.” Robb Windsor, the plantation owner’s youngest son, is 22, same as Jubel, and is torn between being Jubel’s friend and his master. Jubel has to go it alone, unable to bring along his mother or Missy, who works in the big house, and with whom he’s been in love since the two were children. As Jubel treks through the treacherous swamp, Robb notices his absence and hires a slave catcher to hunt him down. Jackson’s propulsive prose conveys Jubel’s urgency and his Odyssean string of obstacles, such as a white woodcutter who presses him into service after capturing him, and unveils painful revelations about Jubel’s, Missy’s, and Robb’s broken childhood bonds. The steady supply of action and psychological insights makes this a knockout. (Dec.)