If you are one who enjoys historically accurate and compellingly told stories, I do not think you can go wrong picking up one of the many “Tales from a Revolution” series of books. For me, this was the first work I have listened too by both this author and narrator and I can say that I wanted more when it ended. The following review is specifically for the ninth book in the series titled “The Freedman”. If you are like me, you may be asking if you have to read the first eight books to enjoy this one. The answer to that great question is no. Each of the books released in this series are stand-alone pieces but some may include character or places from others, so by reading them all you may find some cross-over elements. However, the ones thing that ties them all together is that each takes place during the American Revolution. The ninth book is one of four audiobooks currently available on Audible. The author of this book series is Lars D. H. Hedbor and the available audiobook editions are each performed by Shamaan Casey; at the time of this review. If you are a history buff or someone that does not care much for history but instead likes to have a tightly crafted telling of a story, grab one of these books and give them a listen. Each audiobook contains about five hours of material which provides ample time to lay out a tale while educating you along the way. History is not one of my preferred genres, but I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh new perspective the author created in this book and I will be looking at trying out other in the future.
Reading a bit about the author from his Audible notes page, I like that his perspective around teaching history wrapped around telling stories. History is not simply about reciting dry facts and events which can easily be forgotten or added to over the years. Humankind, from its roots, has used storytelling to keep history alive from one generation to the next. So, the author of these book makes history come alive by creating believable characters placed in historically accurate situations and locations making it memorable to the listener. I may have learned more about this period in history from this one book than I had during all my previous schooling. I know I will more easily remember parts from this story in years to come.
In this story, one learns just how hard life was and that one’s decisions often had major consequences to not only oneself but others around them as well. The period of the American Revolution may seem like a simpler time compared to today’s hustle and bustle, yet as this story shows, it was anything but easy for one to survive let along a family. This emotional story puts the listener in the shoes of a newly freed colored slave in North Carolina. It sounds like it would be a happier story, but even from the start we see how hard it is when our main character is required to leave behind his beloved wife and child after his new master finds his single skill no longer valuable. Our main character, Calabar, is thrown out in to a world that he knows nothing about. Because he grew up his entire life as a slave, simple things which may seem simple to us were often quite difficult for him. Learning about money, clothing, and food were major hurdles he needed to understand and overcome to survive. Few people would show a colored man compassion during these times, yet friendships are formed, and life-time bonds are created along his journey. Fate deals this newly freed man a welcomed hand when he comes across the path of a trader interested in acquiring high-quality indigo. Calabar is an expert in indigo as this was all he knew about growing up as a slave. This new opportunity opens up many other avenues for not only Calabar but also his family.
When I look back at the writing, the story felt solid and well researched. The scenes were descriptive and most of the characters felt like they had dimension and depth. The author did a good job of showing just how it would have been growing up during this period of time and the many difficulties; both for slaves and non-slaves. There were many twists and turns along the way showing how one event can change the course of not only one man’s life but history as well. I enjoys what I learned about the indigo trade as most of the southern history books are focused on tobacco crops. All along the way I was reminded how hard a life it was for these people. In this story, we are also shown love, hatred, war, and friendship. The author gives us minute glimpses of humor, but these are often few and far between; rightly so. I did laugh out loud when the author referenced the use of snuff. Both my grandma and great grandma, northern Alabama raised, chewed snuff until each was in their nineties. I can recall having to fetch their spit cups many times during my summer visits as a child. Coming away from this book, I realized that even a freed slave had limited rights and options living in the south.
For a newer narration on Audible, I felt that Shamaan Casey did an exceptional job with this piece of historical fiction. I felt that he really gave life and breath to Calabar especially, but he also did good at voicing the many other characters. The deep and rich sound given to Calabar allowed me to more easily picture him while listening. Overall, volume and pace were consistent throughout the book, but I would recommend future books be read at a slightly slower pace. No need rushing a good thing.
Parents and younger readers, this is a book that I think would be appropriate for nearly any age listener. There is no use of profanity, no adult specific or mature content I can recall. It does have some quite realistic and graphic scenes of violence, but nothing that would be out of character or historically inaccurate for a book set in this period. I feel the audience is more geared towards the teen to adult category, but not Young Adult in writing style. As I stated earlier, this is a great way for a student to learn about history and for the adult who may have forgotten much of what they learned in history class to learn something.
In summary the book is rather impactful and educational at the same time. It deals with subjects that are often swept under the rug, yet I believe it was handled appropriately and with respect. I enjoyed seen the growth and maturity of Calabar as the book progressed. The story is what one might expect handed down over generations about this family and their desire to overcome in the face of what seems like impossible odds. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in this time period or just wants to hear a story told and narrated well.