An Undisturbed Peace by Mary Glickman
In 19th century America, as the government worked to disenfranchise the country's native tribes and push them off their lands, waves of immigrants came in their wake, hoping to make their dreams of freedom and prosperity into a reality. Mary Glickman's latest novel follows one such immigrant, a Jew, Abrahan Bento Sassaporta Naggar who leaves London, for the new world to work for his uncle as a traveling peddler. Through his travels, Abe encounters Marian, the beautiful Cherokee woman also known as Dark Water. While Abe falls for the mysterious Marian, she is still in love with the black man who was her parent's slave. This trio of personalities comes together on the backdrop of the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which lead to the infamously shameful "Trail of Tears."
What I find interesting about Glickman is that she likes to find the connections between Jews and other population groups in America's history. Here she brings Jews in contact not only with Native Americans, but also with black slaves. Since the Jews are a people with a long history of suffering and oppression themselves, Glickman finds these connections to draw certain parallels. In this novel, Glickman draws comparisons between the injustices leveled against the Indian nations in America with Jews chased out of their homes from antiquity through modern times. However, Glickman doesn't connect the dots for the reader herself, but rather allows the reader to read this into the narrative. In this way, she explains why Abrahan is so easily able to sympathize with the plight forced upon these native people.
More importantly, rather than focusing fully on just the historical aspects, Glickman brings us a cast of characters which demonstrate this, and develops a story which combines human interest with a part of the past that most readers know little about. The real magic here is how Glickman makes each of these characters so unique and puts them into highly plausible situations, so that we can witness their reactions and then cannot help but feel for them. Placing them all on this monumental backdrop only heightens the story of Abrahan's love for Dark Water/Marian, together with her suffering surrounding the slave Jacob. Of course, just as much as Abrahan realizes that a life with Marian is impossible, so too does the Cherokee nation forbid members of its tribe to intermarry with black slaves.
This is one of those rare examples of when a historical novel is the perfect balance between fact and fiction. This is particularly difficult to do when part of the past is lesser known to the public in general. Often authors who write about such eras give into a temptation to be overly explanatory, which can feel both patronizing and is usually boring. Glickman avoids this, for the most part, with only one section of the narrative being a little slow going early on in the story. However, once you get past that, you'll find that Glickman melds the reality of the times with these beautifully developed characters into a plot that feels increasingly compelling. Furthermore, I was especially pleased that Glickman was able to bring this novel to a very emotional conclusion that felt both honest and heartfelt, as well as perfectly in character. For all this, I think this book deserves a healthy four and a half stars out of five, and I can warmly recommend it.
Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books (USA, Canada & Australia), iTunes, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), new or used from Alibris as well as from an IndieBound store near you. I would like to thank the author for sending me an ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.