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For readers of Colson Whitehead, James McBride, Yaa Gyasi and Lawrence Hill, Up From Freedom is a powerful and emotional novel about the dangers that arise when we stay silent in the face of prejudice or are complicit in its development. As a young man, Virgil Moody vowed he would never be like his father, he would never own slaves. When he moves from his For readers of Colson Whitehead, James McBride, Yaa Gyasi and Lawrence Hill, Up From Freedom is a powerful and emotional novel about the dangers that arise when we stay silent in the face of prejudice or are complicit in its development. As a young man, Virgil Moody vowed he would never be like his father, he would never own slaves. When he moves from his father's plantation in Savannah to New Orleans, he takes with him Annie, a tiny woman with sharp eyes and a sharper tongue, who he is sure would not survive life on the plantation. She'll be much safer with him, away from his father's cruelty. And when he discovers Annie's pregnancy, already a few months along, he is all the more certain that he made the right decision. As the years pass, the divide between Moody's assumptions and Annie's reality widens ever further. Moody even comes to think of Annie as his wife and Lucas as their son. Of course, they are not. As Annie reminds him, in moments of anger, she and Moody will never be equal. She and her son are enslaved. When their "family" breaks apart in the most brutal and tragic way, and Lucas flees the only life he's ever known, Moody must ask himself whether he has become the man he never wanted to be--but is he willing to hear the answer? Stretching from the war-torn banks of the Rio Brazos in Texas to the muddy waters of Freedom, Indiana, Moody travels through a country on the brink of civil war, relentlessly searching for Lucas and slowly reconciling his past sins with his hopes for the future. When he meets Tamsey, a former slave, and her family trying to escape the reach of the Fugitive Slave Act, Moody sees an opportunity for redemption. But the world is on the cusp of momentous change, and though some things may be forgotten, nothing is ever really forgiven.


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For readers of Colson Whitehead, James McBride, Yaa Gyasi and Lawrence Hill, Up From Freedom is a powerful and emotional novel about the dangers that arise when we stay silent in the face of prejudice or are complicit in its development. As a young man, Virgil Moody vowed he would never be like his father, he would never own slaves. When he moves from his For readers of Colson Whitehead, James McBride, Yaa Gyasi and Lawrence Hill, Up From Freedom is a powerful and emotional novel about the dangers that arise when we stay silent in the face of prejudice or are complicit in its development. As a young man, Virgil Moody vowed he would never be like his father, he would never own slaves. When he moves from his father's plantation in Savannah to New Orleans, he takes with him Annie, a tiny woman with sharp eyes and a sharper tongue, who he is sure would not survive life on the plantation. She'll be much safer with him, away from his father's cruelty. And when he discovers Annie's pregnancy, already a few months along, he is all the more certain that he made the right decision. As the years pass, the divide between Moody's assumptions and Annie's reality widens ever further. Moody even comes to think of Annie as his wife and Lucas as their son. Of course, they are not. As Annie reminds him, in moments of anger, she and Moody will never be equal. She and her son are enslaved. When their "family" breaks apart in the most brutal and tragic way, and Lucas flees the only life he's ever known, Moody must ask himself whether he has become the man he never wanted to be--but is he willing to hear the answer? Stretching from the war-torn banks of the Rio Brazos in Texas to the muddy waters of Freedom, Indiana, Moody travels through a country on the brink of civil war, relentlessly searching for Lucas and slowly reconciling his past sins with his hopes for the future. When he meets Tamsey, a former slave, and her family trying to escape the reach of the Fugitive Slave Act, Moody sees an opportunity for redemption. But the world is on the cusp of momentous change, and though some things may be forgotten, nothing is ever really forgiven.

30 review for Up from Freedom

  1. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    I didn’t know until I read the author’s note at the end how personal this story was to him and that made it all the more meaningful. At 47, Wayne Grady discovered that he was half African Canadian. As he traced his family back to 1835, he uncovers information of a trial involving his great-great-grandparents focusing on whether they were black or white. Later in the novel, this trial comes to life. The story, though begins with Virgil Moody, son of a Georgia plantation owner who thinks different I didn’t know until I read the author’s note at the end how personal this story was to him and that made it all the more meaningful. At 47, Wayne Grady discovered that he was half African Canadian. As he traced his family back to 1835, he uncovers information of a trial involving his great-great-grandparents focusing on whether they were black or white. Later in the novel, this trial comes to life. The story, though begins with Virgil Moody, son of a Georgia plantation owner who thinks differently than his father. “As a younger man he’d vowed he would never own slaves, never be like his father....” He leaves Savannah, taking with him one of his father’s slaves, a young woman named Anne to free her and save her from further abuse. They make a life together raising Lucas, the son she was pregnant with before they left. Virgil goes off to the Mexican-American War and returns in 1848 with guilt and regret over things that happened. He returns to find Lucas, a man wanting to forge his own life with a slave woman from a nearby plantation. The novel is a journey, both literally and emotionally for Virgil as he feels responsible for Lucas running and for Anne’s fate in the face of what may happen to Lucas. Virgil takes us to many places across the country from Savannah to New Orleans to Galveston to Indiana and Chattanooga, Louisville and other cities as he sets out to find Lucas and seek redemption for his deeds and his father’s. Along the way he meets and connects with Rachel, a Quaker woman who saves his life. Helping runaways along the way with Rachel and the twins Tim’n’Tom and then on his own bringing fugitives to Solomon Kastchens and others who put themselves in danger moving runaway slaves to freedom. He meets and helps a black family, helping them through a trial - should a black person be able to marry a person assumed to be white. Horrible and racist arguments, chilling in fact. These people are the author’s family. While I found this slow at times, the novel provides a picture of the country in these years, in these various places that Virgil travels to and in the opposing sentiments and beliefs about slavery. A powerful story and so much more poignant that this is based on the author’s family. There is much to reflect on here - the journey of a man seeking redemption and the journey of these slaves to freedom. I received an advanced copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada through NetGalley.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    ***Available in stores today!!*** 3.5 stars Typically historical fiction novels set during antebellum times are told from the perspective of the slave escaping to freedom. In Up From Freedom, our protagonist is the reluctant slaveholder Virgil Moody. While visiting his father's plantation, he meets the defiant young Annie. Assured that he is saving her from a brutal life he steals her away to New Orleans. When he discovers her pregnancy he decides to raise the child as his own. In his mind he and ***Available in stores today!!*** 3.5 stars Typically historical fiction novels set during antebellum times are told from the perspective of the slave escaping to freedom. In Up From Freedom, our protagonist is the reluctant slaveholder Virgil Moody. While visiting his father's plantation, he meets the defiant young Annie. Assured that he is saving her from a brutal life he steals her away to New Orleans. When he discovers her pregnancy he decides to raise the child as his own. In his mind he and Annie are like husband and wife and Lucas their son. As the novel progresses he is forced to examine the ways in which he is complicit with the institution of slavery. Was Annie with him all these years of her own accord or did she feel as if she had no other choice? Is he Lucas' father or his master? This internal struggle remains with Moody as he journeys north and works alongside Quakers and abolitionists. Up From Freedom examines the concepts of freedom from both that of the oppressed and the oppressor and looks at how racist ideologies have historically been implemented in the court room. Is it enough to be released from the shackles of slavery? What happens after the slave reaches freedom? Perhaps the most captivating part of the book was the trial against Leason and Sarah Lewis for the crime of fornication. Based on the real life trial of the author's great-great-grandparents it begs the question - what is the biological basis for race? Wayne Grady is a Canadian author of both fiction and non-fiction. His first novel, Emancipation Day is also in part autobiographical. Nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2013, this book centers around a young man who passes for white and the impact this denial has on those closest to him. Thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday Canada and Wayne Grady for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

  3. 5 out of 5

    KarenK

    I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review. Virgil Moody vowed he would never be like his father, he would never own slaves. A well told Epic story of a man's struggle to do what's right in a society that says you are wrong. Good story! 4☆ I received this from netgalley.com in exchange for a review. Virgil Moody vowed he would never be like his father, he would never own slaves. A well told Epic story of a man's struggle to do what's right in a society that says you are wrong. Good story! 4☆

  4. 4 out of 5

    Sarah Cassidy

    Best book I have read in the past five years (yes, I am counting). I rank this as my second favourite novel of all time. The tragedies within might be dreadful, but the book itself was a delight to read. This is truly special. I am proud it came from a Canadian author--a Kingstonian no less, where my heart lies, but I digress. My personal mission is to spread word of this treasure to as many people as possible. Pick it up. Read it. Savour it and treasure it. My goodness, what a treat. (Have I gu Best book I have read in the past five years (yes, I am counting). I rank this as my second favourite novel of all time. The tragedies within might be dreadful, but the book itself was a delight to read. This is truly special. I am proud it came from a Canadian author--a Kingstonian no less, where my heart lies, but I digress. My personal mission is to spread word of this treasure to as many people as possible. Pick it up. Read it. Savour it and treasure it. My goodness, what a treat. (Have I gushed enough?)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Anne Logan

    Up From Freedom by Wayne Grady is the next stop on my ‘can-lit’ tour, which I read in preparation for the Wordfest event I just hosted on Tuesday. I read his last book Emancipation Day in 2013, and in true Anne Logan style I can’t remember a thing about it because it was literally hundreds of books ago for me. I do remember thinking Grady was a lovely writer, and I was reminded of this when I read his latest book Up From Freedom. It tells the story of a young man, Virgil Moody who despises the fa Up From Freedom by Wayne Grady is the next stop on my ‘can-lit’ tour, which I read in preparation for the Wordfest event I just hosted on Tuesday. I read his last book Emancipation Day in 2013, and in true Anne Logan style I can’t remember a thing about it because it was literally hundreds of books ago for me. I do remember thinking Grady was a lovely writer, and I was reminded of this when I read his latest book Up From Freedom. It tells the story of a young man, Virgil Moody who despises the fact that his father owns slaves, and in an attempt to lead a more moral life, moves away with Annie, a pregnant slave to start a new life with her. This action of ‘taking’ a slave with him sets the course for the rest of the book, because although he believes he is ‘saving’ her, his action is still that of a slave owner in that he treats her like a piece of property in moving her, without her consent. They live together for awhile, Annie has the baby, and Moody attempts to create a family with these two other people, although it’s technically not something they have any say in. Annie’s son Lucas goes away (I’m being consciously vague here), and Moody spends the rest of the novel searching for him. To see the rest of my review please visit: https://ivereadthis.com/2018/10/11/bo...

  6. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    Top contender for best of the year! Review to come.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sandra

    This is an amazing novel — compelling, vivid, and enlightening. It knocked me out! HIGHLY recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Donna McCaul Thibodeau

    It took some time but this book grew on me and I'm glad I stuck with it. Reading the author's note and learning that some of the characters were based on his real family, made it even more interesting. It's the story of Virgil Moody (a fictional character), the son of a plantation owner who was a slave owner. He took one of his father's slaves and left with her to live in New Orleans and then Texas. Annie was pregnant with his father's child but Virgil didn't find this out until much later. They It took some time but this book grew on me and I'm glad I stuck with it. Reading the author's note and learning that some of the characters were based on his real family, made it even more interesting. It's the story of Virgil Moody (a fictional character), the son of a plantation owner who was a slave owner. He took one of his father's slaves and left with her to live in New Orleans and then Texas. Annie was pregnant with his father's child but Virgil didn't find this out until much later. They lived together as a family, not slaves and owner. When Lucas grew up, he asked to be sold so that he could be with the woman he loved. Even though he didn't believe in slavery, Virgil did as Lucas asked. The rest of the book is Virgil's journey trying to find Lucas and Benah, who ran away and headed to Canada. The free African American family he encounters are the factual family members of the author. The book is set before the Civil War, when things were coming to a head between North and South. This book was beautifully written and I found it fascinating, especially when I found out that much was based on factual events.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Veronica

    Virgil Moody decides that he never wants to own slaves like his father so while he is visiting his father's plantation he meets Annie, a defiant slave. He decides to take her away with him convinced he is rescuing her from a life of brutality. He finds out she is pregnant and decides to raise the child as his own son. What follows is an often painful and thoughtful journey through Virgil's trying to make up for the past. I found the novel hard to read at times and very thought provoking but in t Virgil Moody decides that he never wants to own slaves like his father so while he is visiting his father's plantation he meets Annie, a defiant slave. He decides to take her away with him convinced he is rescuing her from a life of brutality. He finds out she is pregnant and decides to raise the child as his own son. What follows is an often painful and thoughtful journey through Virgil's trying to make up for the past. I found the novel hard to read at times and very thought provoking but in the end I was glad I read it. The key issue throughout the novel is the question as to how do we make peace with the past and our own sins, and how can we be sure that we are doing the right thing?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Doreen

    Virgil Moody “vowed he would never own slaves, never be like his father” but when he left home “he’d taken Annie [a house slave] from his father’s plantation.” Moody discovered that Annie was pregnant but he comes to think of her and her son Lucas as his family. This family is broken apart when Lucas falls in love with a slave belonging to their neighbour and flees with her. Virgil sets out to find him, enroute encountering people with differing attitudes to slavery. Eventually, he finds himself Virgil Moody “vowed he would never own slaves, never be like his father” but when he left home “he’d taken Annie [a house slave] from his father’s plantation.” Moody discovered that Annie was pregnant but he comes to think of her and her son Lucas as his family. This family is broken apart when Lucas falls in love with a slave belonging to their neighbour and flees with her. Virgil sets out to find him, enroute encountering people with differing attitudes to slavery. Eventually, he finds himself in Freedom, Indiana, where he meets Tamsey and her family who are trying to escape the reach of the Fugitive Slave Act. Though Virgil is searching for Lucas, his journey is very much a journey of self-discovery. At the beginning he fails to understand that his actions make him complicit in slavery. He claims to abhor slavery, but he fights on the side of Texas in the Mexican-American War knowing that “Texans were fighting for slavery.” He convinces himself that he saved Annie from his father’s cruelty but he never asked her if she wanted to come with him. He claims that he knows Annie stayed with him because she wanted to “’because she didn’t leave’.” Virgil thinks “of Annie as his wife and Lucas as their son” but “Annie hadn’t been as comfortable with that as he was [because] the consequences for her were far greater than they were for him.” Virgil tells Lucas, “’I always raised you like a son’” but Lucas points out, “’Did you? Wouldn’t you have sent your son to school?’” At one point, Annie asks Virgil to talk to Lucas but Virgil replies, “’He’s your son’” and she responds with “’But he your slave!’” And Virgil never actually frees them! Gradually, Virgil comes to realize that he could have done more. When Annie and Lucas have to stay in steerage, “suffocated below on straw mats and were fed gruel,” aboard a steamer while he “slept comfortably in his cabin, on clean sheets and in fresh air,” he counts himself “virtuous for having noticed [Annie’s] anger, thinking she would appreciate the difference between his concern and the other passengers’ lack of it. Annie and Lucas were more to him than slaves: wasn’t he a fine chap? . . . But what could he have done? More.” Virgil comes to see his selfishness, to see that he had blindly assumed “that doing what was good for him was good for everyone else concerned.” He admits “He was only generous when it suited him. He transported fugitives only because he thought they might help him find Lucas. And he didn’t even want to find Lucas for Lucas’s sake, but for his own. For forgiveness.” It is Tamsey who forces Virgil “to admit to himself what he was. A white man in a world that was increasingly determined by the consequences of slavery. It was time for him to stop acting surprised and indignant whenever anyone suggested to him that the reason he hadn’t freed Annie or Lucas was that he had liked it that their relationship was based on ownership, that that was the way he’d been raised, and, hate it though he professed he did, it was the relationship he understood and felt most comfortable with.” Then, when given an opportunity, he sets out to redeem himself. The concept of freedom is examined in the novel. Virgil tells Lucas, “’You [and your mother] always been free here” but obviously Anne and Lucas don’t feel that way. A man Virgil encounters tells him “’our Northern states are proud of the fact that their constitutions do not allow slavery. No, the workers on these industrious projects are free blacks – a designation that usually signifies a man is free from slavery, but that here has come to mean also a man who works for free. Or for wages so low that he can’t afford to do anything about his situation.” Even freed slaves with “free papers” fear fugitive catchers, especially with the passing of the Fugitive Slave Act: “’I show our papers to catchers, you think they leave us alone?’” And Virgil can never be truly free of his past. Set between May 1848 and November 1850, the novel examines racial turmoil in the United States at that time, a turmoil that erupted in the American Civil War a decade later. But the novel is relevant to today. Virgil’s father taught him that “’Nothing is forgiven . . . Some things are forgotten, but damn few. And nothing is every forgiven’” and Virgil realizes that “his father had been right, that forgiveness meant wiping the record clean and that could never happen.” Slavery cannot be wiped clean and so not truly forgiven but perhaps, as one character says, “’It not too late to seek a better world’”? There is a trial towards the end of the novel that has a twist I never expected but is apparently based on an actual case involving the author’s great-great-grandparents. It emphasizes that the terms “black” and “white” are in many ways meaningless and only labels which can be used/misused to serve one’s purposes. Can any of us really call ourselves one or the other? This is an excellent novel which I highly recommend. It has a compelling plot and a complex character who learns much about the world and himself. The book will leave readers asking questions about their own behaviour. Note: I received a digital galley of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. Please check out my reader's blog (https://schatjesshelves.blogspot.com/) and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski).

  11. 5 out of 5

    Ian

    I saw Mr. Grady at Wordfest in Calgary when he was promoting this book and his personal stories relating to the book and the revelation he was born into a black family was a little shocking. I just finished Emancipation Day before reading this one as I wanted to keep that book's story line, especially as it seemed there might be some similarities and his writing style fresh in my mind. This a wonderful book, well articulated, great pace, the story lines, although, at times disturbing, were well I saw Mr. Grady at Wordfest in Calgary when he was promoting this book and his personal stories relating to the book and the revelation he was born into a black family was a little shocking. I just finished Emancipation Day before reading this one as I wanted to keep that book's story line, especially as it seemed there might be some similarities and his writing style fresh in my mind. This a wonderful book, well articulated, great pace, the story lines, although, at times disturbing, were well thought out and beautifully written. It was an interesting introduction to Moody though and how he changed his treatment of non-whites when he went back to his father's plantation. I liked the court room drama scenes, how some whites (other than Moody) were all one same side and worked to free the slaves through trusted sources and have them move though certain states to obtain their freedom, how is relationship with Annie and Lucas evolved; how he handled her untimely death and his fruitless search for Lucas and Benah & then his new relationship with Tamsey and all the others involved with Tamsey.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andre

    Up From Freedom, is the second book I recently read that feels epic surrounding the original sin of slavery. This one tells the tale of Virgil Moody and his reluctance to be a master of any human. “As a younger man he’d vowed he would never own slaves, never be like his father, but when he moved from Savannah to New Orleans, he’d taken Annie from his father’s plantation.” And that’s taken, like not buying or even asking for permission, taken as in ‘freeing. You see Moody is the son of a slaver, Up From Freedom, is the second book I recently read that feels epic surrounding the original sin of slavery. This one tells the tale of Virgil Moody and his reluctance to be a master of any human. “As a younger man he’d vowed he would never own slaves, never be like his father, but when he moved from Savannah to New Orleans, he’d taken Annie from his father’s plantation.” And that’s taken, like not buying or even asking for permission, taken as in ‘freeing. You see Moody is the son of a slaver, and despite his best intentions, he couldn’t completely avoid the sordid business of enslaving human beings. This novel is skilled at asking the tough questions and presenting the uneasy choices, forcing the reader to engage beyond the level of entertainment. Moody is a man of convictions and contradictions, I suppose no different than most human beings. Despite his abhorrence for slavery he fought on the side of Texas, when it was still a part of Mexico, knowing full well, Texas would become a slave state and it did. He has always been ambivalent about his father’s plantation and was sullied about the association with slavery. He is drawn as an empathetic character but one who often fails to see how his own actions makes him complicit in the slavery operation. When he is afforded an opportunity to leave the Plantegenet plantation, he does and takes Annie with him along with her two-year-old son, Lucas. Moody treats Annie more as wife and Lucas as son, then bondsmen. This isn’t problematic in New Orleans, but when he moves to Texas, things change. “In New Orleans, he and Annie had lived together openly in the Quarter, let anyone think what they would. They’d had to be more careful in Texas, where every white farmer was a slaveholder and no one felt compelled by Mexican law to give up their slaves. Polk’s war might have been about territory, but Texans were fighting for slavery. Slavery was their religion; the Mexican War had been a religious war. But within their own house, Moody had gone on thinking of Annie as his wife and Lucas as their son.” He never knew how to exactly frame their arrangement, and Annie never pushed for any clarity on the issue. This left Moody perturbed, because he certainly didn’t want Annie to see him as “Massa” although essentially that is what he was to both Annie and Lucas. When Lucas wants to take up with Benah, a slave girl from a nearby plantation, Moody attempts to buy Benah in order to free her, but the mean Mr. Millican is dead set against that and counters with an offer to buy Lucas. Of course Moody quickly squashes that idea and tells Lucas there is nothing that can be done. Upon hearing this, Lucas storms out and Moody neglects to go after him, setting up his regret and search for Moody throughout the balance of the novel. Moody’s disappearance is devastating for his mother Annie, and Moody broods over his mistake. His search for Lucas takes him to many places and puts him in strange situations. He spends some time with a Quaker woman in Tennessee, and hears some things that help challenge his mind on the way he handled Annie and Lucas; further on, he meets a former enslaved family that are free, but not paper free, And the precariousness of being Black during slave times is keenly felt by Grady’s writing. Because rather slave or free, you could be kidnapped and sold into slavery by the whim of any white man depending on their mood of any day. “If slavery was to be defeated, religion would have to be defeated first. And that would have to be done by men and women of conscience.” Moody, once again finds himself in a relationship with a free-not-free woman, Tamsey Lewis and this leads to some problems and challenges including a court case involving her son and his wife that would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Mr. Grady keeps us guessing never letting the story become bland and predictable. Elements of this story are based in some of the author’s actual family history. Overall, a well done effort. It’s not easy to keep readers enthralled over territory that has been vastly explored in fiction but Wayne Grady does with minimal hiccups. He includes some challenging questions at the end of the book, which help you to reflect on what you’ve just read in a thoughtful manner. Thanks to Doubleday Canada and Netgalley for an advanced DRC. Book will drop on Aug.14, 2018.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Allison Kelly

    I very much enjoyed this book. Some of the issues it explores are very relevant today. As we all begin to learn more about our shared ancestry, the issue of race becomes a very tangled web of truth, lies, deception, family skeletons, and politics. As I begin to trace my own ancestry, I have come to realize this as well. Probably why I picked up this book. The main character, a Southern white man, abhorrent of slavery, but son of a plantation owner, thinks he is 'woke.' But when tragedy strikes, h I very much enjoyed this book. Some of the issues it explores are very relevant today. As we all begin to learn more about our shared ancestry, the issue of race becomes a very tangled web of truth, lies, deception, family skeletons, and politics. As I begin to trace my own ancestry, I have come to realize this as well. Probably why I picked up this book. The main character, a Southern white man, abhorrent of slavery, but son of a plantation owner, thinks he is 'woke.' But when tragedy strikes, he begins a pilgrimage to find the son he wants to make amends with, but it is really a journey to the realization of how very complicit he has been in the system of slavery. He is haunted by the memory of the woman he loved, but barely knew, as well as by the love for a 'son' he never really knew or understood. It is the story of a man who learns from a number of very strong female characters, and his love for each of them informs his journey in different ways. This book illuminates the convoluted path leading up to the abolition of slavery, and the advantages and disadvantages freed people had to navigate during the abolition of slavery in the U.S. As we watch what is happening in the U.S. right now, it is very important to revisit the incomplete transition that blacks have come through, and how it is very relevant to why we need the BLM movement so many years later.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Meg

    Missed its own potential. (And, thus, shouldn't be compared to the inventive, evocative, and important writing of Colson Whitehead & Yaa Gyasi.) Missed its own potential. (And, thus, shouldn't be compared to the inventive, evocative, and important writing of Colson Whitehead & Yaa Gyasi.)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    Set in the antebellum period, Up from Freedom is a unique slave narrative in that it is written from the perspective of a white man, Virgil Moody. Born into a family of slave owners, Moody vows to never be like his father and to never own slaves. The novel takes place over two years, from May 1848 to November 1850, and readers watch as he experiences tragedy, questions his own assumptions, reconciles his past with his future, and, ultimately, learns what it means to be the man he always wanted t Set in the antebellum period, Up from Freedom is a unique slave narrative in that it is written from the perspective of a white man, Virgil Moody. Born into a family of slave owners, Moody vows to never be like his father and to never own slaves. The novel takes place over two years, from May 1848 to November 1850, and readers watch as he experiences tragedy, questions his own assumptions, reconciles his past with his future, and, ultimately, learns what it means to be the man he always wanted to be. This book paints a stark picture of the traumas of slavery, the arbitrary and meaningless nature in which race was defined, and the consequences of these racial divisions. This story is made even more special after reading the Author’s Note, in which the author reveals that although this is a work of fiction, it is based on his own family history. In using their names and telling their story, Grady has created a poignant novel which reflects upon history while also offering glimmering contemporary truths. It is not hard to apply the following quote to current attitudes in the United States surrounding immigration and refugees, nor is it hard to relate to the second quote. “Change came slowly in small places, where townspeople were more inclined to see change as a threat. If slavery were to hold out anywhere, it would be in these small towns and rural areas of America, which was pretty much what the South consisted of.” “The news exerted a morbid fascination of him. Whenever he thought things were as bad as they could get, the next day they got worse.” All in all, I truly enjoyed this novel and look forward to picking up some of Grady’s other work in the future.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Up from Freedom is an amazing story describing the struggles of slavery and showcasing the journey to freedom in the 1830s. Virgil Moody is different from others around him and has different beliefs than other farmers, especially his Father. He makes this very clear throughout the story by taking a slave with him to 'free' her. He also attempts to bring others to freedom while on his journey to search for Lucas. I found many parts of the story to be very emotional and I found myself wondering wh Up from Freedom is an amazing story describing the struggles of slavery and showcasing the journey to freedom in the 1830s. Virgil Moody is different from others around him and has different beliefs than other farmers, especially his Father. He makes this very clear throughout the story by taking a slave with him to 'free' her. He also attempts to bring others to freedom while on his journey to search for Lucas. I found many parts of the story to be very emotional and I found myself wondering what the end would bring. I won't give any spoilers but the ending is very surprising and unexpected. I was content with how the book ended even though there is a major plot twist that is somewhat unsettling. The novel brings realness to the struggles of racism and slavery in the United States in the 1830s. However, at the same time, Grady highlights the idea of hope throughout the novel and does not allow the characters to give up.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chelsea

    I won a free ARC of this book from a Goodreads giveway. This book tells the story of an abolitionist born into a slave-owning Southern family and his quest to track down the man he considers his adopted son. This was one of those books that I could put down easily, but jumped right back into when I picked it up again, drifting lazily down the river of the story. I really enjoyed the complexity of Moody's character and his desire to be a better person than his father and brothers, but that he made I won a free ARC of this book from a Goodreads giveway. This book tells the story of an abolitionist born into a slave-owning Southern family and his quest to track down the man he considers his adopted son. This was one of those books that I could put down easily, but jumped right back into when I picked it up again, drifting lazily down the river of the story. I really enjoyed the complexity of Moody's character and his desire to be a better person than his father and brothers, but that he made grievous mistakes that led to tragic events, and his attempts to grapple with his culpability in those events. Though I do always want a story to wrap up in a neat little bow...this one doesn't, but it still provided enough of a sense of completeness to satisfy me.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Louise Blais

    I won this novel quite a while back in exchange of an opinion of my thoughts on this story. I wish I would have read it sooner!! I was captivated by this novel as I am a big fan of historical books. At times it was very difficult to read as it deals with plantation owners owning slaves and they considered them as herd. Such ignorance in that time period, to think that their slaves had no intelligence and would probably not do well if they were not being told what to do !!! It made me reflect oft I won this novel quite a while back in exchange of an opinion of my thoughts on this story. I wish I would have read it sooner!! I was captivated by this novel as I am a big fan of historical books. At times it was very difficult to read as it deals with plantation owners owning slaves and they considered them as herd. Such ignorance in that time period, to think that their slaves had no intelligence and would probably not do well if they were not being told what to do !!! It made me reflect often and it was a very difficult read but nonetheless a very informative one. I look forward to reading any other novels that Wayne Grady will write. A previous book of his entitled Emancipation was also fantastic !1

  19. 4 out of 5

    Roger Taylor

    This was a novel everyone should read if you wish to understand slavery in the US and what it meant to both the slaves and slaveholders. The story is centered around one such slaveholder, Virgil Moody, who moved from his father's plantation in Georgia to New Orleans and then to Texas with Annie and her son Lucas who had been slaves but were treated as wife and son by Moody. The story eventually finds Moody in Indiana where we learn that while the North may have been "free", former slaves lived t This was a novel everyone should read if you wish to understand slavery in the US and what it meant to both the slaves and slaveholders. The story is centered around one such slaveholder, Virgil Moody, who moved from his father's plantation in Georgia to New Orleans and then to Texas with Annie and her son Lucas who had been slaves but were treated as wife and son by Moody. The story eventually finds Moody in Indiana where we learn that while the North may have been "free", former slaves lived there in almost as much fear as in the South, especially after the Compromise of 1850. It is a journey in space but also in mind as Moody changes his outlook about slavery and his role in it.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Pgchuis

    Read for book club. I have mixed feelings about this one. It wasn't a particularly difficult read and the depictions of the realities of slavery, while terrible, did not dwell on the details of the brutalities inflicted. However, there were an awful lot of characters, many many place names and names of rivers etc, and although I liked Moody, it was a vague sort of liking. If I hadn't needed to finish it for book club, I could have walked away from the story at any point. The chapters about Sarah Read for book club. I have mixed feelings about this one. It wasn't a particularly difficult read and the depictions of the realities of slavery, while terrible, did not dwell on the details of the brutalities inflicted. However, there were an awful lot of characters, many many place names and names of rivers etc, and although I liked Moody, it was a vague sort of liking. If I hadn't needed to finish it for book club, I could have walked away from the story at any point. The chapters about Sarah and Leasom's trial were quite suspenseful, but the rest just plodded on. It did make me think, but it could have been a lot shorter and more tightly plotted and had the same effect.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Barry

    An interesting approach to the dilemma of slavery in the old south. If you're born into it, as a white "owner" family, but disagree, how do you live within the situation? This story is about a flawed white man who is drawn to strong females, both black and white. He tries to do the right thing, but doesn't always think things through - how do others in the situation see it. Also an interesting take on Quakers, and their views as expressed through a 2nd strong women encountered by "Mr. Moody". Read t An interesting approach to the dilemma of slavery in the old south. If you're born into it, as a white "owner" family, but disagree, how do you live within the situation? This story is about a flawed white man who is drawn to strong females, both black and white. He tries to do the right thing, but doesn't always think things through - how do others in the situation see it. Also an interesting take on Quakers, and their views as expressed through a 2nd strong women encountered by "Mr. Moody". Read this book.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Marissa

    Goodreads Win Copy This tells the story of a white man who is in search of his father’s slave and her son who is sold. He is against slavery as he finds himself travelling north. This is his journey through that time as he helped slaves to escape. An insightful read that captions that era and the dangers aling the way

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    Wow! What an amazing book! I was intrigued when I read an article about Wayne Grady and how he came about to write this book and I wasn't disappointed. I've tried for the past 30 minutes to put my feelings into words...I found myself angry and appalled but also optimistic and hopeful. I highly recommend it! True rating 4.5 Wow! What an amazing book! I was intrigued when I read an article about Wayne Grady and how he came about to write this book and I wasn't disappointed. I've tried for the past 30 minutes to put my feelings into words...I found myself angry and appalled but also optimistic and hopeful. I highly recommend it! True rating 4.5

  24. 4 out of 5

    Michelle Hoult

    This book was a little different than what I've been reading lately. It's a historical novel, based on the author's family history. It was slow to start, but once Virgil met up with Tamsey and her family, it got very interesting. If you can stick with it through the slow start, you will be rewarded with a great read. This book was a little different than what I've been reading lately. It's a historical novel, based on the author's family history. It was slow to start, but once Virgil met up with Tamsey and her family, it got very interesting. If you can stick with it through the slow start, you will be rewarded with a great read.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Samuel

    This is a truly good historical novel based in the author's own family history. It's an unflinching look at Black-White relationships pre-Civil War, mostly outside the Deep South. Virgil Moody comes across as a sincere, flawed human being who struggles to do right and often fails. He falls in love with strong women and tries hard to match their strength. Just a great read. This is a truly good historical novel based in the author's own family history. It's an unflinching look at Black-White relationships pre-Civil War, mostly outside the Deep South. Virgil Moody comes across as a sincere, flawed human being who struggles to do right and often fails. He falls in love with strong women and tries hard to match their strength. Just a great read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jack Beaton

    Although set in the mid nineteenth century, this book reflects the current state of division in America. The description of the fear and hatred of escaped slaves heading north matches the fear and hatred being fomented by Trump about the "caravan" of Central Americans heading North through Mexico. Sadly, we haven't made much progress. Although set in the mid nineteenth century, this book reflects the current state of division in America. The description of the fear and hatred of escaped slaves heading north matches the fear and hatred being fomented by Trump about the "caravan" of Central Americans heading North through Mexico. Sadly, we haven't made much progress.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth A Henderson

    Very thought provoking! After meeting the author at an Author Series I purchased the book through Amazon. Much to my surprise I found the book thought provoking and challenging. Not only my perception of what slavery was BUT what exactly was the true determination of white or black as seen through the eyes of both black and white self professed humans!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Richard Worden

    Wayne Grady is an excellent writer and storyteller. It was hard to put this book down. The characters, the dialogue and the issues are so well developed. The author's note and the Discussion Guide are valuable additions to this book which raises questions not only from the past but also from what is taking place at this moment. I would like to see this book as the basis of a movie. Wayne Grady is an excellent writer and storyteller. It was hard to put this book down. The characters, the dialogue and the issues are so well developed. The author's note and the Discussion Guide are valuable additions to this book which raises questions not only from the past but also from what is taking place at this moment. I would like to see this book as the basis of a movie.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kendra

    Reading this in 2020, when many are asking ourselves what we would have done if we had lived during slavery, this book explores this exact idea. What becomes of someone who is inclined against slavery, but doesn't avoid participating in the system and perpetuating the power dynamics between Black and white people in 1800s USA. Reading this in 2020, when many are asking ourselves what we would have done if we had lived during slavery, this book explores this exact idea. What becomes of someone who is inclined against slavery, but doesn't avoid participating in the system and perpetuating the power dynamics between Black and white people in 1800s USA.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Lorrie Morales

    Another Canadian author who captures the essence of time during the days of slavery and the longing for the Promised Land - Canada. Such truth in the story and the atrocities that occurred during civil unrest, divided opinions and unjust cases. "Though some things may be forgotten, nothing is ever really forgiven." Another Canadian author who captures the essence of time during the days of slavery and the longing for the Promised Land - Canada. Such truth in the story and the atrocities that occurred during civil unrest, divided opinions and unjust cases. "Though some things may be forgotten, nothing is ever really forgiven."

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