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In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree

In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree by [McLellan, Michael A.]

In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, by Michael A. McLellan, takes place in the 1860s and revolves around the lives of three people trying desperately to find their way in post-Civil War America. Henry, a man freed from slavery but never free from the horrors he endured, finds himself assisting Clara Hanfield in her quest to reunite with Lieutenant John Elliott, the man she loves and her father loathes. All three are caught up in the government’s plot to push the Native Americans from their land once and for all. Fate has dealt quite the hand to Henry, and his introduction to Clara and her mission to find John poses yet another obstacle to Henry’s quest to find the freedom and peace he deserves.

McLellan’s writing is simply breathtaking. The richness of the language he gives his characters immediately reels in the reader. The exchanges between Henry and Eliza are tender, and her early attempts to refine his speaking habits are affectionate and determined. The trials the two endure to survive as slaves in the South and their attempt to escape the lynch mobs running rampant tore at my heart. McLellan’s words ring all too true. Henry and Eliza’s story is painful, tragic, and well-crafted to convey the horrific circumstances of the era.

Clara’s rescue by Henry is one of those moments in the book worth rereading. Henry, for all intents and purposes, is making amends in any way he can for the loss he has suffered and the guilt he feels for that loss. Sweeping in and pulling Clara from the hands of the enemy, Henry begins a friendship he never could have seen coming. Theirs is a touching relationship punctuated with fleeting moments of light-hearted banter and anchored with fear and a fierce desire on both their parts to find their way to the right side of things. Clara, described as being much like her father, uses it to her advantage as she faces insurmountable challenges on her journey with Henry. Hers is a character refreshingly unlike any other I have read in the genre of historical fiction.

Randall breaks my heart. He is one of those characters the reader will root for from his first appearance. Without giving away too much of Randall’s subplot, I will say that from those first moments of indecision with Clara at West Point. I wanted to see Randall come out on top. The backstory involving his own child and his love for Clara makes for a unique connection and offers the reader all the more reason to admire Randall.

I am giving In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars. McLellan has written a piece of historical fiction incorporating elements for every reader. His plotlines involving a family divided and the tragedy surrounding Henry’s life as a slave intertwine to create a beautiful story of friendship, trust, and stand as a testament to the strength of the human spirit. I highly recommend this book to any fan of novels from the Civil War era. McLellan’s characters are truly unforgettable.

Pages: 268 | ASIN: B071YMXDQL

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Another Tribe: Our Eternal Curse

Our Eternal Curse: Another Tribe by [Rumney, Simon]5 Stars

Heartache and pain follow our protagonist, Julii, as she makes her way through the life she is living in America during the 1860’s. Our Eternal Curse – Another Tribe by Simon Rumney shows Julii as a young, naïve Aboriginal woman living with her small tribe and ignorant of the world. She does not know about war on the scale of what the white American’s are fighting. She doesn’t understand racism and slavery in the way we have learned about. She lives carefully and quietly with her family. She is extremely intelligent and takes her small world for granted. Then she meets a man who is gravely injured at the side of a river she has always gone to. A man who does not look like the men she knows. A man who may never wake up from the coma he slips into. This man is Robert, and he will change the very way she lives.

While this book is part of a series, it’s easy to read on its own. Required knowledge of the previous books is not necessary, although it may heighten the experience. This book is overflowing with raw, human emotion while not being afraid to look at the disgusting parts of colonial history. Rumney certainly knows how to spin a tale. While told in the third person we see the tale from Julii’s point of view: we hear her thoughts, and we begin to understand and learn about the world through her eyes. It’s a clever way to do it, especially for those who may not be aware or understand this point in history.

As Julii learns about the reality of the outside world, we learn about it as well. Her confusion and the struggle with a foreign language are easily portrayed and the reader feels as though we are Julii: we are also the ones who are seeing this world for the first time and learning this language for the first time. The world of 1860’s America is cruel. To understand how an Aboriginal person, a woman for that matter, would have felt during this time is difficult. This is a time of rampant racism, of distrust and the inability to treat all human beings with respect and dignity. It can be painful to read, as it is important to realize that these thoughts and attitudes still exist almost 200 years later. Rumney does a great job of making the reader identify with Julii, the marginalized main character in our tale.

With a story so beautifully crafted it’s hard not to get immersed while reading it. Julii goes through so much in her life: she experiences things so rapidly that it’s hard not to feel for her. If you are looking for a heart-tugging story with excellent character development and a subliminal message, Our Eternal Curse – Another Tribe by Simon Rumney is definitely worth a pick up. Readers won’t go wrong by potentially stepping outside of their comfort zone and reading about the fantastical life of Julii.

Pages: 314 | ASIN: B00TI01JH6

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