The Orphan Mother by Robert Hicks
If you read Widow of the South by Robert Hicks then you’ve met Mariah Reddick, slave of Carrie McGavock, the widow of the South. Now, the war is over and we hear Mariah’s story.
The slaves may be free of bondage but only just in the eyes of most white southerners and certainly not enough to be actual citizens. Mariah is a midwife, the only one for miles around Franklin, Tennessee so she is trusted by the women and only grudgingly so by husbands. Mariah knows to keep her knowledge in her head and her head low and by doing so she can lead her life.
But her son Theopolis has ideas about real freedom for the freed black man and attempts to take a stand and make a speech to this affect during a ceremony in town. Something goes wrong and Theopolis is killed. The fingers of blame are pointing everywhere and Mariah is going to find out the who and why because she feels like her life is going backward.
A stranger in town, a man called George Tole, befriends Mariah but he is running from his own past. His skills though, he carries with him and devotes himself to helping Mariah learn the truth about the death of Theopolis and the people who run the town.
I wasn’t sure if I was ready for another story like this one, but as I read I discovered this wasn’t another story like others. We may be ignorant of what the freeing of the slaves actually meant for them and finding new ways of looking never hurts, especially considering there is an undercurrent still visible today.