Peter Troy,
May the Road Rise Up to Meet You
(Doubleday, 2012)

A lot can happen over the course of 20 years.

This book of historical fiction profiles four young people who live in America in the mid-1800s: Mary, a slave in North Carolina and Virginia; Micah, a slave in South Carolina and Virginia; Ethan, an Irish immigrant in New York; and Marcella, a Spanish immigrant in Georgia and New York. We meet them as teens, though by then all have experienced challenges that could disarm many an adult. (Slaves and immigrants -- you can well imagine their burdens.) Some of their situations can be tough to read about, even at this distance. But we cannot ignore our national past, especially in its more egregious episodes.

Each person has a talent and a unique brand of independence and spirit. Mary is a meticulous seamstress. Micah is a master carpenter. Ethan finds his calling in the new business of photography. Marcella is a Jacqueline of many trades, including piano playing and winning at poker. We follow these likable folks off and on, from 1847 to 1867, through times of "Exile," "Climbin'," "Tempests" and "Clarity." At first their stories remain separate. Then their lines begin naturally to intersect. Mary and Micah meet. So do Ethan and Marcella. Later, circumstances arise that lead one character's path directly into that of another: North to South, and South to North. We hope for "happily ever afters" for them all. But setbacks lie in the way. There's also the matter of the war, emancipation and the general state of the union. Anything could happen. Indeed it does, both to our heroes and to their friends and relatives.

The four individual voices sustain the narrative. Each portion is told in either the first- or third-person viewpoint, and often through streams of consciousness, with dialogue blended in. As a result, readers can feel as though they're tapping right into the characters' thoughts. At times, the line between imagination and reality is difficult to discern.

Mary, Micah, Ethan and Marcella are vastly different people, yet they face similar issues and dilemmas. And in spite of their personal trials, they all do more than survive. They succeed.

Peter Troy has penned a fascinating first novel. In addition to his commitment to America's legacy, it's obvious that this author and former history teacher believes in the power of love.

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You is a no-brainer as a recommendation for Civil War buffs. A wide variety of additional readers (men, women, adults, young adults, history fans, multiple-view aficionados) will enjoy it as well.

[ visit the author's website ]

book review by
Corinne H. Smith

15 December 2012

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