Being a part of Bibliophile’s Workshop’s many different blog tours,“ will give you the opportunity to read various novels, spanning many genres and writing styles, along with helping share new, promising titles with readers all across the internet.
James’ Journey Blog Tour Monday, April 20,2015- Ends Saturday April 25, 2015
Information About the Book:
Day #4, April 23,2015- Review of Helen Lundstrom Erwin’s James’ Journey
Historical Fiction novels tend to either be some of the most provocative, interesting, and immersive types of novels, or they tend more towards the turgid and stale, when it comes to prose or characterizations. Helen Lundstrom Erwin’s thoughtful, sensitively-written historical novel is none of the latter, but it fulfills everything in the former. How is it provocative? Well, it is almost impossible to find emotionally gut-wrenching, direct-to-the-point, ethically blunt stories out there, taking place at a rather bleak time in American History, where the menace of slavery persisted in half of our country. And many novels tend to shy away from this issue, or even worse, they tend to divest the harrows of the slave experience, the historical realism, in favor of saccharine pretense, which dishonors the bravery,courage, moral endurance of the abolitionists and of the many slaves,who had to live under slavery all due to political and economic avarice.
Sadly,some people want to use auxiliary excuses, like the fact slavery existed around the world prior to this, but never to the same scope and egregious brutality of how African Americans were enslaved in our own country for nearly half of our country’s history. That is staggering, and reducing the moral horror of this does absolutely nothing to provide healing, catharsis, and edification to witnessing the tragic scenes of history. We cannot make excuses, as we are wanton to do in the name of bowdlerizing history, or making American somehow less blameworthy for certain moral atrocities, as all nations tend to be as fallible as ourselves. It is wrong to censor history in our textbooks, and that is why books like James’ Journey are so crucial and important to keeping ourselves not just aware of history, but always consciously,scrupulously knowledgeable of very clear memories of what exactly went wrong, and how this knowledge must be used wisely to help make us, progressively, make better ethical decisions in the future.
The history of slavery in our country is an albatross around us, as well as the Trail of Tears, things that we should be reminded of daily, not to be encumbered by guilt, but by a sense of rational acceptance of these things, which lend to wisdom for the present. That wisdom that this kind of dark history imparts to us is the importance for us to learn to keep our own Inner Light burning, strengthen our skills at empathizing with others. Do it in such a way that is entirely radical, lend every voice around you, even the most diffident and nasty, a few seconds of your silent meditation about what may have befallen them in their pasts. As with reading this crucial, important work of historical fiction,written by a very skilled writer, who excels in the art of subtle prose, this work forces us to practice the art of empathy, learning as James learns, the main character of this engrossing story, the importance of letting the deeper magic of empathy work itself on your mind.
Every character in this story is well molded, even the antagonists. There is always an astute level of depth and nuance to people, with perspectives we may not exactly favor. Helen Erwin is adept, as good historical fiction writers usually are, with breathing life to characters from a bygone world, giving them believable depth that makes them transcend the page, and linger in your mind. You’ll feel deeply involved with the trials and tribulations that Katherine and James, along with their ‘freed’ slaves face in a world of the American South that was utterly blithe about the way they treated their fellow brothers and sisters as mere objects, even worse; the story gruesomely details the way the slave-masters saw black men and women as “mere animals,” or “chattel” to be traded with. Some of the worst human atrocities begin with this degradation of others to the level of being possessions. Sadly, there are areas of our country that still legally imply that children are mere ‘chattel,’ with no rights of their own, legitimizing certain forms of physical abuse, in some areas of the South, an area that in some sense still really has not quite absolved themselves of the albatross of slavery. It took till 1995 for the South’s largest Christian denomination, the Southern Baptist Church, to formally renounce their views on slavery; that is nearly 150 years for the Southern Baptist Church to formally acknowledge the egregious damage done to the African American community, in the name of criminally bad religion.
This leads into the importance of remembering the legacy of the brave abolitionists, the proud history of the Quakers, who inadvertently inspired many Christian groups in different denominations, to actively denounce slavery, and to even flout immoral laws, in favor of defiantly giving back human beings a certain degree of dignity and humanity, by braving it all to rescue those in slavery. Freed slaves also put their lives on the line in many instances, risking capture, to save their own enslaved brothers and sisters. James Journey depicts the bravery, really ethical rectitude of these people, willing to go against what some more vocal churches were saying about the activities of the abolitionists, all in the name of acting more in accord to what that inner voice, or ethical voice within themselves led them to do, when they knew that someone like themselves was suffering the indignity of slavery, and they knew that they had to do anything, to salve their own conscience.
We never really pay our respects to the countless abolitionists, the pacifist heroes, rarely championed in literature. The main character of James is a dynamic, interesting, compassionate figure of pacifistic bravery. By rebelling against the system by helping others around him and relying on what his conscience encourages him to do’ he and many others in the Abolitionist movement, led by what the Quakers refer to as the ethical dictates of the Inner Light, to selflessly work for the improvement of the lives in dire straits around them.
And Helen’s story does such a commendable job, like the excellent film Amazing Grace, with portraying a hero of a different sort, an introspective, pacifistic, empathetic hero, like the many Abolitionists who secretly hid away escaped slaves, like the many freed slaves who wrote their accounts, helped others escape. And of course the book has some rich
characterization of the many slaves themselves, who are much more nuanced than mere racial stereotypes; they escape the clutches of lazy characterization, and are given the same deep characterization, as the main hero of this wonderful morality tale, of one man’s own wholehearted, inspiring dedication to what the voice of his own inner mind, or Inner Light, has to illuminate for him.We need more stories of this caliber, more that once again demonstrate heroics of a different type, to help edify readers, hopefully, to recognize that there are many types of bravery beyond ones that don’t just involve acting out in violent vengeance.