When Adelaide is a little girl her father gifts her with her very own slave, Rachel. She is of similar age and bears a striking resemblance to Adelaide. As a house slave (servant) Rachel has had the opportunity to perfect her speech and secretly learn how to read and write. While Adelaide treats her as a friend and enjoys being the teacher, it is illegal to help a slave learn to read so the two girls must quickly hide their camaraderie and lessons from the family and the rest of the cotton plantation. As the girls get older a match must be made for Adelaide and because they are of the Jewish faith, and there are very few Jewish families in the south at this time, her father arranges a marriage with a young man from Savannah. Being the strong minded (and spoiled!) woman she is, Adelaide publicly refuses this match to man she does not trust or respect. At this point the differences between the two girls have them at odds as they are no longer friends and cannot really be sisters. As war approaches the choice between slavery and the plantation’s success becomes a plight for the entire family. As Jews, having been slaves in Egypt, owning another human being and justifying their need complicates what the Confederacy is fighting for. Adelaide has to learn for herself that it is not enough to treat your slaves well, for they are still slaves. She can pat herself on the back for the kindness she gives only so many times before understanding what slavery really means, for it is the only way of life she has ever known. When the battlefront hits their actual front yard, Adelaide and Rachel face each other, truly, for the first time. I highly recommend this magnificent novel by Sabra Waldfogel, filled with love, family, freedom and survival. No matter how many books I read of this time in history, I continue to be shocked - but sadly realize the many ways it is till happening all over the world. Will certainly have a lot to discuss when my book club meets this month!
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