3 out of 4 stars
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Salt of the Earth by Mark Allan Johnson is a historical fiction about the years before and after the Civil War. In 1846, in Equality, Illinois, John Crenshaw was the Hickory Hill salt mine owner. Illinois is a free state, so John leases slaves from the slave state of Kentucky to work in the salt mine. To keep up his reputation as a family man and leader in the Methodist church, John kidnaps and sells slaves to the cotton and sugar cane states in the south. When John gets behind on his taxes and mortgage, he sells Hickory Hill. John had already broken his promise to his house slave, Patsy, never to sell her family. He sold her twin daughters, Betsy and Beulah. Beulah earned him the most money because she was pregnant. Elias, one of his leased slaves, fearful of being sold south, runs away determined to head north where his mother had always told him he would be free. His friend, Caleb, tells him he needs to go west, not north. Will Elias be caught by the Night Riders, who stole slaves and sold them? Does Elias go north or west? What happens to Betsy, Beulah, and others during this turbulent time in our history?
There are several things I like about this action-packed book. Mr. Johnson does a fantastic job of describing all aspects of this era in our history. I felt like I knew each of the characters personally. I could feel their love, fear, joy, pride, shame, and pain. The author accurately details the prejudices felt against anyone who was not white or Methodist. If you were African American, Native American, Chinese, Irish, or Catholic, you were held in contempt and abused. The author's best achievement was portraying these individuals, not as victims but as brave and strong individuals. Slave descendants should be proud of their ancestors. The atrocities were terrible, but they endured, and they had no room for self-pity. I also like that the book expands through 1948.
What I dislike most about this book are the atrocities that were done in the name of God and righteousness. The God I know is loving and would never approve of the bigotry and the ideal of slavery that occurred during this time period. I have a hard time understanding why anyone would think it was God's will to enslave and abuse another living being.
This book is in dire need of editing by a professional editor. I found over ten errors in the first 80 pages of this 253-page book. Overall, this a good book that depicts a dark time in our history. For this reason, I gladly give this book 3 out of 4 stars. I would have given the full four stars if it were not for the editing. The editing is all that is wrong with this book, so it deserved more than two stars.
I recommend this book to adult readers who enjoy historical fiction that revolves around the Civil War and the culture of that time period. Sensitive readers need to be aware that there is some borderline profanity. Also, some of what I call crimes against humanity are gory. The sexual content is not erotic but includes attempted rape and an individual being used as a stud to increase the slave population.
Salt of the Earth
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