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The Civil War has turned neighbor against neighbor--but for one scientist spy and her philosopher soldier, war could bind them together . . .
For three years of the War Between the States, Marlie Lynch has helped the cause in peace: with coded letters about anti-Rebel uprisings in her Carolina woods, tisanes and poultices for Union prisoners, and silent aid to fleeing slave and Freeman alike. Her formerly enslaved mother's traditions and the name of a white father she never knew have protected her--until the vicious Confederate Home Guard claims Marlie's home for their new base of operations in the guerilla war against Southern resistors of the Rebel cause.
Unbeknowst to those under her roof, escaped prisoner Ewan McCall is sheltering in her laboratory. Seemingly a quiet philosopher, Ewan has his own history with the cruel captain of the Home Guard, and a thoughtful but unbending strength Marlie finds irresistible.
When the revelation of a stunning family secret places Marlie's freedom on the line, she and Ewan have to run for their lives into the hostile Carolina night. Following the path of the Underground Railroad, they find themselves caught up in a vicious battle that could dash their hopes of love--and freedom--before they ever cross state lines.
Source: advance e-galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review
Earlier this year I read and fell in love with An Extraordinary Union. Its story introduced me to an aspect of the Civil War that I was unfamiliar with - that of the men and women, including the freed slaves who risked their lives and freedom to serve as spies during the war. A Hope Divided follows in that vein with Malcolm's brother, Ewan who as a spy has been pretending to be a prisoner of war so that he can deliver secrets to the Loyal League. It's at prison that he makes Marlie's acquaintance. Marlie is unique in that she's half black and half white and has been recognized by her white family, to a certain extent. She has grown up with privileges that no slave could ever dream of but she has never forgotten who she is. With the advantages that she has, she covertly works for the Loyal League using her reputation as a healer to protect her. When Ewan's dramatic escape from prison is botched, Marlie offers to hide him away in the safest place possible: her home. Specifically a hidden room within her bedroom. It's a temporary solution that puts them both in danger but that's what they have to do until Ewan is healthy enough to make another escape
A Hope Divided is striking in that it presents a series of ironies that only highlight the the evils of bigotry. For example, Ewan is a white man trapped in a room, forced to hide from the Confederate soldiers. Marlie, is a free Black woman who can roam around town yet will forever be trapped by the colour of her skin. The book also looks at the complicated dynamics of a family that includes a person of colour -- how they address each other or refer to one another in the company of others, how they convey their feelings and ultimately, how they really see each other while never acknowledging their connection out loud, not even in the privacy of their own home. I thought that was an enlightening aspect of Marlie's story. When the Confederate Home Guard decides to make her house homebase, Marlie's security in her own home is upended. She's no longer as free has she has been. It also put her and Ewan in harm's way and they have no choice but to escape. And here we see Marlie as the healer that she is, someone who is always looking out for others even if it means putting herself in danger. Ewan, who's more philosopher than fighter, now has the resolve to truly fight for everything important to him.
My favourite part of the story is the connection that Ewan and Marlie Have. Both find intellectual stimulation in each other's company, engaging in lively philosophical conversations and debates. There is, of course, the physical attraction as well. My least favourite part is the language and abuse hurled at Marlie and other slaves. It's an unfortunate part of the story and history but it's unsettling to read nonetheless. I can't even begin to fathom treating someone that way and thinking a person inferior because of their colour.
I enjoyed the suspense in A Hope Divided and that both Ewan and Marlie eagerly aspire to live up to their cause despite the odds against them. This series has been a great way for me to gain insight and learn more about the time period. Definitely worth the read!