Jacqueline Sheehan

"Truth"

(Reviewed by Kam Aures OCT 21, 2003)

"I rode to earth on the backside of a comet. Mau Mau Bett saw me blaze across the sky and disappear into the moon, where I reined in the comet with my strong arms, tightened my thighs to make the comet turn, then scorched back across the sky. With the last light of the comet-- for I had burned it up dashing across the moon-- I rode until I saw a man as tall as a tree, holding up a burning pine knot in a smooth stone mortar. Next to him was a woman holding out her apron. I landed headfirst in her outstretched cloth, turning her apron black with my heat."

Read excerptThis was the story that Mau Mau told her daughter Isabella as to how she was born. Mau Mau and her husband Bomefree had twelve children total but they had all been taken away and sold into slavery to different owners. At the beginning of the novel only Isabella and her younger brother Peter remain with their parents. However this soon changes as the family is once again put on the auction block. Bomefree explains to the children that slaves are sold one by one and that they will be separated from each other which turned out to be the truth. Isabella is sold from one brutal master to another. She suffers unjust beatings, is tortured and neglected. One such example, is when her master's wife Sally takes her and another slave, Tom, out into the smokehouse. Sally instructs Tom to tie Isabella's hands together and hoist the rope over one of the beams overhead. After that was done, she took a darning egg out of her pocket and shoved it into Isabella's mouth. "She pushed and shoved until my jaws were wide open, ready to unhinge like snakes do when they eat a rabbit. Then she told Tom to tie my feet with a wide board between them so they were held far apart." Then, Sally thrust a small log up between Isabella's legs and continuously heaved it at her. After that Tom was instructed to take a switch to her.

Isabella finds love with another slave named Robert. Robert is sent over from a neighboring master to repay a debt. The word is out that slaves will soon be free and Robert and Isabella try to plan a
future together. Isabella even presents the idea to her master Mr. Dumont, "Robert and I are thinking about the time when slaves are to be freed, and we want to be ready. If you buy Robert from Catlin, he and I can work every Sunday, hire ourselves out, and
we will pay you back for the both of us. Until then you'll get the same hard work from me that you've always had." This hope was short-lived for soon after Mr. Dumont gives Isabella the news that Robert is not coming back. Robert's master had bought a slave woman to marry off to Robert so that they may have children
to increase his number of slaves.

Sheehan's novel details Isabella's life through all of these tragic experiences and as she blossoms into Sojourner Truth - "lifelong crusader for slave reparations and women's rights." This novel takes a very intriguing look into the world of slavery and what happens to slaves when they finally are free. The reader is spared nothing (as in the example above); we experience every horrific, traumatic moment that Isabella and her family are subjected to. While this is a work of historical fiction, Sheehan writes in a way that makes it feel real. In my opinion, the first part of the novel seemed to flow better and be more involving than the second half of the novel, but all in all Truth is an excellent debut novel and well worth the read.

  • Amazon readers rating: from 2 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from Truth at MostlyFiction.com



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About the Author:

Jacqueline Sheehan is a practicing psychologist, essayist, and short story writer and has been published in Peregrine, Kaleidoscope, Earth's Daughters, Anseo, and Hampshire Life. She lives in Florence, Massachusetts.
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