Book Review: ‘The Day I Saw The Hummingbird’ by Paulette Mahurin

This book held definite appeal to me as I have long admired the work of Harriet Tubman and all those who worked to liberate slaves and help them to freedom. ‘The Day I Saw The Hummingbird’ immerses the reader in the life and experiences of Oscar Mercer, born into slavery in a sugar plantation in Louisiana in the years preceding the American Civil War. 

Oscar’s story is heartbreaking, terrifying and inspiring as the author positions the reader as an eyewitness to the tragedies, but also the courage and kindness, experienced by Oscar as he grows to understand that compassion is as powerful as hatred, and that wisdom and loyalty are qualities that should be as highly prized as one’s own freedom.

This story is beautifully told, with evocative language and vivid imagery that causes the reader to develop deep empathy not only for Oscar but also for all others in similar positions. The story also highlights a truth that is often overlooked: even in the deep south, there were many white people opposed to slavery or, at the very least, opposed to the cruelty with which so many were treated. Indeed, a broad range of human responses to slavery are depicted in the actions of different characters in this book, showing that it is one’s individual choices and personal ethics that set one person apart from another in terms of character and integrity, and that it is both possible and imperative to stand up for what is right rather than settle for convenient wrongs.

This is an important story that everyone should read in their lifetime, and which should be in personal bookshelves and library collections alongside ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’. 

Book Review: Four American Tales by Jack Messenger

This is the first of Jack Messenger’s books that I have read, but I definitely hope to read more of his writing. I enjoyed Four American Tales very much.

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On starting this collection with the first story, Wichega, I was immediately drawn in by the wistful, melancholic voice of Sweet Pea, telling her story so powerfully. This story is so evocative of memories, of sights and smells and sensations, that I almost felt that I was right there in the scene. This story is such an engaging way to open the quartet of stories.

Messenger’s writing is equally powerful and emotive in the other stories. The characters are developed richly, each having their own distinct voice and mannerisms that portray far more than what is told of them in the stories themselves.

These stories, and the characters in them, are varied enough to keep the reader engaged and curious throughout the book. There is neither cliche nor repetition in the plots, characters and imagery delivered by Messenger.

These stories are, without doubt, American in both style and setting, at different times reminding me of the imagery and eloquence of John Steinbeck.

This is the first of his books that I have read, but I definitely hope to read more of his writing. I enjoyed Four American Tales very much.

Four American Tales is available on Amazon.