Author W. Caleb McDaniel tells a breathless tale with an ominously dark feel through many of its pages, because the monsters here were real. Yes, it’s a complicated tale that races from north to south, but the righteous audacity that ultimately occurred in Ohio in 1870 makes it worthwhile, fist-pumping, and satisfying. Historians, of course, will want Sweet Taste of Liberty. Feminists shouldn’t miss it. Folks with an opinion on reparations should find it. All of you will want to take it home.
... superbly written ... [McDaniel] deftly integrates court records with fine-grained background stories of Wood’s enslavers and lawyers, all the while presenting a panorama of antebellum and post-Civil War America ... The story itself is rich with vivid personalities and unexpected turns ... While Mr. McDaniel barely refers to the present-day push for reparations, he amply demonstrates that the generation of men and women who escaped slavery deserved far better from America than they got.
In the story of Henrietta Wood...McDaniel expertly recovers her obscure life from diffuse archival fragments ... McDaniel is particularly good at challenging assumptions ... McDaniel acknowledges the dangers of 'a cheap payoff" [with reparations]. But he wants us to consider the weakness of the counter-argument, the one that would have us accept 'apologies without paychecks' ... In any case, by acknowledging the inability of reparations to achieve justice, we might actually strengthen, rather than weaken, the case for them.