Official Review: Free to Be by Gracie L. Chandler

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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ritah
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Official Review: Free to Be by Gracie L. Chandler

Post by ritah » 06 May 2018, 12:21

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "Free to Be" by Gracie L. Chandler.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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When the Union army destroyed the Confederate forts of Port Royal Sound on November 7, 1861, white occupants were forced to flee to the mainland, leaving behind their Sea Island Plantations, thousands of slaves, and tons of quality cotton. Some of the enslaved saw the turn of events as a chance to take to their heels with hopes of gaining freedom. On the other hand, Crecie, a slave of Ivy Oaks plantation, struggles with the idea of freedom—a concept that threatens to destabilize her usual routines and place in society. As expected, the government, military, and abolitionists take charge of the islands. Crecie perceives them as ‘new masters’; she compares their authority and commands to those of her previous master because she longs for the orderly routines to which she had become accustomed. When murder, betrayal, and chaos ensue, Crecie is personally affected by the tragedy. Will these events push Crecie to finally break the self-denigrating, white supremacy-upholding shackles of the mind instilled by four generations of enslavement? Will she realize that she need not depend on white authority and recognize her own strengths?

Free to Be, by Gracie L. Chandler, is a riveting historical fiction novel that depicts the psychological effects of years of slavery. Set in the 1860’s during the American Civil War, the narrative gives readers an in-depth view of the politics, events, and culture of the time, as well as the different inner turmoil experienced by the slaves.

Although Crecie is the protagonist and center of the story, I appreciated that the author included other characters who not only share the same struggles but also have different views and aren’t afraid to challenge each other’s perspectives. That is where some of my favorite characters were born, Isham and Randy. I liked that Isham is head-strong and daring, while Randy is intelligent and meticulous. I also liked that they are both independent thinkers in a time where being so could get them killed. While Crecie has a mind of her own, at first, I struggled with her decisions, but as I got to know her, I began to understand her; at times, I would see her perceptions and actions as a form of defense mechanism. With that, her character slowly began to grow on me; thus, I found myself wanting more and more for her to break free from the mental shackles that weigh her down and keep her mentally restrained. An interesting tidbit for me is that despite Crecie being mentally enslaved, she is still a strong woman in her own right.

This novel is hands down one of the best that I’ve read in its genre and category. The level of detail and historical accuracy is impressive; it is clear that the author put in a lot of thought, time, and research into it. Additionally, every detail and the historical characters included are relevant to the plot and seamlessly woven into the narrative. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the story and gained much information on the lives of island slaves, abolitionists, the Union, the value of cotton back then, and the politics behind the Civil War.

The level of character development is excellent; I not only got to see the different facets of the characters but also felt as though I watched a number of them grow. The characters are well described and extremely believable, which makes it easy to picture them in their setting. I cared for and even grew attached to the characters and their story that I was sad to see the book end because I was left wanting more. I would love to see the book adapted to film and will definitely keep an eye for more books by Gracie L. Chandler.

In the 351 pages I read of Free to Be, I found a handful of errors only, such as the misuse of the article ‘a’ and other minor errors. I’m sure that these errors were missed typos because the book appeared to be professionally edited. Initially, I had a little difficulty reading the slaves’ dialect because it is a little different from the ones I have heard before, but as I continued reading, I adjusted to it. While searching the meaning of a few words that were new to me, I learned that the vernacular is known as Gullah, or Sea Island Creole English.

I would recommend this novel to anyone interested in learning about the Civil War in a captivating way, especially history buffs. If you are not a fan of narratives that incorporate a multitude of side characters along the main cast, you might want to overlook that for this book because it is nevertheless an interesting read. All in all, the setting, memorable characters, and storyline made for a compelling narrative, which is why I am thrilled to rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.

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Free to Be
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Post by Miriam Molina » 08 May 2018, 06:11

The Israelites had the same struggle. They'd rather remain enslaved by the Egyptians than face an uncertain future as a free people. Courage is needed to step out of our comfort zones that are keeping us from having better lives. I hope Crecie finds that courage.

What a passionate review, Ritah! I hope to meet Crecie, Isham, and Randy and learn a few Gullah words.

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Post by kandscreeley » 08 May 2018, 12:54

Wow! High praise. One of the best you've read in this genre? I think that means I should check it out. It's a subject we should all read more about. Thanks for your review.
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Post by Irene C » 08 May 2018, 13:07

Thank you so much for this clear, detailed, and enthusiastic review. Considering your assessment that the novel provides a lot of historical background information on the era of the US Civil War and the fact of the protagonist’s age, do you think the novel would be appropriate and educational for, say, middle schoolers?
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Post by melissy370 » 08 May 2018, 16:38

This book sounds so emotionally and psychologically in-depth that I think it would be good as a moving also. I have been to Charleston S.C. where some speak Gullah. It is an interesting language. Thanks for the review.

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Post by teacherjh » 10 May 2018, 12:33

I don't usually read historical fiction, but this sounds like an interesting take on slavery. Thanks.

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Post by CatInTheHat » 10 May 2018, 20:54

The Gullah culture is fascinating. It sounds like the author brings that out in the book.
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Post by Jamasenu » 11 May 2018, 05:09

Being a woman of color, it's hard to read this type of historical fiction. When I was a little girl, my mother used to make us watch, Roots and it tore me to the core. Seeing it from another's perspective, this book provides insight into how mind control manipulation was so instilled in our ancestors that when the opportunity to be free came about, they were hesitant and afraid to take it. You did an outstanding review and I enjoyed reading it. Kudos!
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Post by stacie k » 13 May 2018, 09:37

Great review! I’d love to read this book to learn a new perspective on slavery and the Civil War. I would probably struggle, as you did, to see Crecie not take the opportunity to be free when she could.
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Post by NL Hartje » 20 May 2018, 15:23

As expected, this seems very powerful. I hope this book finds an audience who will enjoy the story within. Historical fiction isn't generally up my alley otherwise I might add it myself. Thanks for this review!
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Post by Asavela » 30 May 2018, 16:16

Free to be. The world needs more books like this. Great review interesting cover. This will be a book to teach a young person more about history iam interested in American civil war.

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Post by SABRADLEY » 30 May 2018, 21:39

I'm a big fan of historical fiction and having read many books relating to the Civil War era, I'm sure I'd find this a powerful read as well. Thanks for a great review.

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