Down the River by David Wilma

Down the River by David Wilma
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
Genre: Historical, Action/Adventure
Length: Full Length (279 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

On the Kentucky frontier in 1810, ambitious men struggle for power over a young, gritty society based on slavery. Ruthless planter and politician David Morgan chooses his young servant Phyllis to gather information on his friends and rivals from other slaves. He also finds her a husband, the love of her life. She develops a keen sense of observation as well as knowledge that there is more to the world beyond the isolated valleys and a system that regards her as property. Despite her warnings, Morgan’s fortunes wane and she and her husband and their children are sold to Edward Osborn, Morgan’s enemy.
Osborn’s ego and the War of 1812 bring more tragedy into Phyllis’s world. Morgan and his son are murdered, and Phyllis is the only eyewitness to the crimes. Her experience as a spy and her own wits help her survive a lynch mob, but may not be enough to reunite her family.

The story is realistic and heart aching but true to the era.

This book may not be suitable for some readers. Even though the detail description of physical abuse to human was known for this time era, reading about the great length of hardship could be a bit much for some. The author has a talent for telling a story and has no problem getting in to character to tell the story. I was surprised that the male author could portray the feelings, thoughts and experience of a female slave girl. The author gives a day to day account of Phyllis Wallace Lewis, a slave girl working on the plantation of David Morgan. David Morgan is describe to be a fair slave owner, with ambition to be a politician but some how his actions shown in the book didn’t really seem fair, especially since it seemed he was the cause for the hardship brought about in Phyllis’s life.

The story is told in Phyllis’s voice. Her voice tells of her documented journey to her children. Her story was one that is truly amazing but I felt it lacked more about her personal story; a story of her family history of why she was set apart from the others. At the start of the book Phyllis’s mother was present but was later sold off the plantation, leaving Phyllis a orphan. Phyllis pretty much was kept apart from the other slave hands. For this story to have been her voice to her children I would have liked to have read more on her mother and her story. What mother wouldn’t want to tell their children where they came from and who their people are? Phyllis knowingly looked different than the others but no one spoke about her blue eyes and fair skin complexion. Later in the book a brief mention that she was white but not much more was elaborated on who she was, who was her father and she didn’t question who she was; she just accepted that she was different and it didn’t seem to bother her.

The author has a talent for writing and telling a story. I’ve read The Guardian and thoroughly enjoyed that book, but for this one I just want something more to happen. Or maybe too much was happening. The first part of the book tells of Phyllis at a young age, the plantation moving and then settling into a new land. Due to near tragic circumstances, Phyllis is assigned to the kitchen to cook, then she was partnered with Esther to sell produce around the town area and gather information for master David to help him in his political run for office. She marries and then is sold. It’s a life full of crisis after crisis and Phyllis is a strong woman the book depicts her endurance and growth in her Christian journey. Reading Phyllis’s story and seeing her growth from thinking her life would be spent under some one’s thumb and to only see that a slave has no rights except to suffer. Her interpersonal growth she soon realizes there is other forces beyond white men and weather. This is a heart warming story to tell her children about. Passing along her struggle and how she overcame to become the strong woman that her children would know and see her as.

The story is well constructed even though there are parts that kept my interest there also were parts of the book that I found to be slow as well. Phyllis’s journey didn’t so much end with a destination but brought about a memorable life of tragedy, heartbreak, love, lost and in the end forgiveness. This book wasn’t the best to me as a reader but I wouldn’t want to discourage someone from reading it. The journey of Phyllis’s life could be an inspiration to some reader that crisis may rise in life but you can’t give up, you definitely can’t stop fighting and ultimately that forgiving may sometimes bring about freedom.

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