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River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer
Historical fiction

River Sing Me Home

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Eleanor Shearer, on your first book!

by Eleanor Shearer

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Quick take

A mother’s love knows no bounds in this gripping story of a formerly enslaved woman’s search for her stolen children.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_HeavyRead

    Heavy read

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_International

    International

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Literary

    Literary

  • Illustrated icon, Icons_Quest

    Quest

Synopsis

Her search begins with an ending . . .

The master of the Providence plantation in Barbados gathers his slaves and announces the king has decreed an end to slavery. As of the following day, the Emancipation Act of 1834 will come into effect. The cries of joy fall silent when he announces that they are no longer his slaves; they are now his apprentices. No one can leave. They must work for him for another six years. Freedom is just another name for the life they have always lived. So Rachel runs.

Away from Providence, she begins a desperate search to find her children—the five who survived birth and were sold. Are any of them still alive? Rachel has to know. The grueling, dangerous journey takes her from Barbados then, by river, deep into the forest of British Guiana and finally across the sea to Trinidad. She is driven on by the certainty that a mother cannot be truly free without knowing what has become of her children, even if the answer is more than she can bear. These are the stories of Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy. But above all this is the story of Rachel and the extraordinary lengths to which a mother will go to find her children . . . and her freedom.

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Content warning

This book contains mentions of sexual assault.

Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of River Sing Me Home.
River Sing Me Home

The soil on the island was fertile, but everything laid down shallow roots. When the hurricanes came, they ripped up even the sturdiest trees; and when the white men came, they tore children out of their mothers’ arms. And so, we learned to live without hope. For us, loss was the only thing that was certain.

Many of us had already lost one home. A home of deep roots and of ancestors delved down into history. Those roots did not save us. Those roots rotted in the hulls of the slave ships, in darkness and filth. We had little left to plant in the new world, and whatever we had was the white men’s for the taking. So we tried to live only on the island’s surface. We planted cane, but nothing of our own. Mothers turned their heads when a baby was born, refusing to meet its eyes.

We tried to glide through this half-life, this life without history or future, but our endless present had ways of stretching itself out, lying across time, until our lives had movement and color again. At night, we whispered stories to the children of old gods in our homelands, in a tongue the white men couldn’t understand.

Still the hurricanes came. Still the children were taken away and sold across the sea. But they were sold with a little seed inside them that sang to them of another life.

Everything laid down shallow roots. But what couldn’t go deep went wide, tapping the oceans, tunneling to the islands nearby, where others were also trying and failing to live without memory of yesterday or thought of tomorrow.

Without roots, things die. Many of us did die, at the hands of the white men or in the heat of the midday sun. The soil ran rich with our blood, and the roots fed on our bodies. It made the roots strong. Shallow, but strong.

There was hope for this new world, after all.

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Why I love it

I have always been a sucker for a good quest story. Drop it in a historical setting? Even better. But it’s not too often that I come across one that centers a Black female protagonist. And that is only the beginning of what drew me to River Sing Me Home. In her powerful debut, Eleanor Shearer spares us from another deep dive illustrating how enslaved women were stripped of their humanity. Instead, she shows us how these women loved and bound their families together.

When word arrives that the British have abolished slavery, Rachel runs. She runs because the children that had been snatched away from her are somewhere out there in the world and there is no time to waste. Through the kindness of other self-liberated and free Blacks that she meets along the way, she embarks on a journey where she discovers what freedom means to her and the lengths she will go to ensure that her children get to experience the same.

Why do I love this book? I love how it doesn’t shy away from the horrors of history, but confronts them in a manner filled with love and care. River Sing Me Home doesn’t leave us in despair to illustrate what resiliency post-emancipation looked like. Rather with indelible characters and rich prose, it leaves us full of hope.

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Member ratings (10,082)

  • Anna S.

    Bellevue, WA

    BEAUTIFUL. I love a good strong woman story but the author also did an amazing job entwining the history of slavery in the Caribbean. This story was not only educational, but heart-warming. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Kaytlin M.

    Arnold, MO

    Wow, what a journey?! I could not put this book down. I had to know what happened. Page by page I experienced every emotion along side a resilient mother finding her children and her freedom. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Susan Y.

    Horsham, PA

    Beautiful, haunting, epic, tense, majestic. Loved this tale of resilience, fortitude and overall love- a mother’s love as well as the love between siblings and between a man and woman. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

  • Kaitlin M.

    Columbia, TN

    An utterly beautiful story about a mother who will do anything–reach out for elusive hope, fight off crocodiles, say “no” to a man–to save the children ripped from her arms during her time as a slave.

  • Carrie B.

    Colonial Heights, VA

    Emotionally riveting.While a work of historical fiction, it’s a truth we cannot deny & the author beautifully told this story that must be shared, felt, appreciated and understood. Rachel is a hero ♥️

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