Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock
Persy knows he is going to die in two days. Outside his cell he can hear his scaffold being built. In his remaining two days he wants to tell his story, his side of it, he doesn’t know if anyone will read it but in the telling, he needs to know that by reliving it he can justify his existence.
Persy begins his story in 1860 on the auction block where he meets his soon to be master and Chloe. Both Persy and Chloe are purchase and taken to Master Wilson’s sugar cane plantation where Persy is set to the fields to cut cane from “can see to can’t see” and Chloe is made a companion to Master Wilson’s sickly wife. Because of circumstances when they were purchased, Persy dedicates his life to looking out for Chloe. Life cutting cane isn’t tortuous but the idea that sometimes he actually gets to meet up with Chloe keeps him alive.
Just before the Union Army takes New Orleans Wilson quickly abandons his plantation and the slaves that haven’t escaped in the confusion, and heads for Texas. In a jealous fit, Wilson shoots Persy, leaving him for dead, and takes Chloe for his. She is light skinned and can pass for white so he introduces her in Texas as his wife.
Persy survives the attempt on his life and sets out to find Chloe, putting in motion his years wandering the Texas wilderness, making new friendships, learning new skills. He is captured by the Comanche, where he discovers he will be judged solely on his bravery, skills and loyalty and he comes to embrace life as a Comanche where he comes to be respected and accepted as a person, not as a black man who would never be able to live as a free man. But always, he looks for Chloe.
Reading this I wondered just how much more a person could take but Persy’s enduring drive to do what was needed to rescue his love and keep a promise is a testament to loyalty.