... propulsive ... This compelling premise of a mother in search of her children powers a moving and dynamic novel. The pacing is swift, and Shearer writes in clear, energetic prose. There is an accessibility to the language that is refreshing; it buoys the narrative, giving us intimate access to a complex period in history ... This fictional account acts as a form of deep witnessing, an ode to the oral tradition and the slave communities it sustained ... There were instances where I wished the novel would pull back and allow me to experience the complexity simmering on the page; too often, the characters’ tears became the shorthand for deeper, complex, roiling emotions.
Rachel is well drawn, someone we can root for, but her all-consuming quest means Shearer’s other characters are less nuanced ... The harsh world of slavery is the backdrop, but the heart of the novel lies in its celebration of motherhood and female resilience. This is a tender exploration of one woman’s courage in the face of unbelievable cruelty. The possibility that Rachel will lose everything she has fought so hard for immerses us in her plight.
... moving testament to a mother’s love and the heartbreaking toll of families torn apart ... For Rachel, although her efforts to locate her children do not always succeed as she hoped, freedom is found in her search.
... lyrical and deeply evocative debut ... In scenes of vivid horror, stirring resilience, and moving reconciliation, Shearer shows the cruel effects of slavery and its aftermath. The beautifully written depiction of a mother longing for her children makes this transcendent.
It seems almost everyone [Rachel] meets has some information or skill to contribute to her search—so much so it starts to strain credulity. There’s also a streak of anachronism that weakens the book’s sense of history ... It’s a 21st-century feminist attitude that seems unlikely for a 19th-century woman, as do some of Rachel’s meditations on the destruction of the environment wrought by plantation farming. The novel’s flaws of plot, character, and verisimilitude are frequent enough that it doesn’t achieve the inspirational power it seems to aim for.