Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Indigo Girl

The Indigo Girl by Natasha Boyd

     Indigo is the most beautiful color I can think of.  It is blue’s blue. I’m not sure many people realize that in the early colonial days of our country we were a top producer of some of the finest indigo dye in the world to date.  That’s why I was excited to be given a chance to read The Indigo Girl for NetGalley.
     When Eliza Lucas was just sixteen years old her father left her in charge of the family’s holdings, three South Carolina plantations, while he travelled back to Antigua to manage his businesses there.  Eliza was a bit of an amateur botanist and she knew that to keep the economically troubled plantations afloat she had to diversify, to find a crop that was not only needed, but valued in the market.  She remembered the indigo that was produced in Antigua and she discovered a couple of her family’s slaves knew a little of the production of the dye so she attempted to grow the crop.
It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, indigo is a fussy plant, the timing of the harvest can be measured in minutes, and the transformation of plant to dye is a painstakingly exact alchemical miracle. 
     Being a girl of sixteen and expecting respect was another matter, but you didn’t fuss with Eliza.  She knew her head and with the help of family friends she managed to command the respect she needed. All in the face of failing crops and slaves who refused to share their knowledge, even sabotaging her attempts.
     And, it turns out, Eliza Lucas is real.  She was the real influence and initial planter of indigo in this country, defying all odds and naysayers and the dye came to be the top export of South Carolina,  and as production grew, providing immense wealth for the founding families of the state. 
The historical novel references  Eliza’s letters and reestablishes her in the annals of the history of our country.  This young girl became a founding “mother” and it was noted in the author’s notes that upon her death, George Washington was one of her pallbearers.
     If the story itself was just a story it would have been good enough but in the end, finding that Eliza was who she was makes it even more important that we remember story.