Someone Knows My Name* by Lawrence Hill was one of those books where bad times just keep coming. By the end of it, I felt like a chocolate cake sitting on my counter must feel every time I walk into the room. “Oh no. I knew she’d be back!” Then the old knife comes out and–another series of bites. Ouch, ouch, ouch!
The reason I was persistent in reading the book is first of all, because it is a damn good book. Secondly, Lawrence Hill was coming to town to speak at our writers’ conference along with his wife Miranda Hill, who was one of the workshop presenters.
Unfortunately, my reading of Hill’s book was followed in short order by another book that dealt with the bloodbath revolution in another African country and two books on the Spanish Inquisition and the Spanish colonization of South America. In the end, I was unable to finish one of the books on the Spanish cruelties in the new world. Enough was enough. I have needed a huge dose of biographies** and less brutal books to get me over a rather lengthy depression that reoccurs every time I read the news and realize such acts of man’s inhumanity toward man are ongoing.
In spite of what I say above, I couldn’t recommend Lawrence Hill’s book highly enough. It is entertaining, historically accurate and opened my eyes to the interconnection of the story of slavery between the U.S., Nova Scotia, England and Africa. It is well-written with engaging characters and (if you don’t want to read a tiny bit of a spoiler don’t read on) thank God, finally had a bit of a happy ending!
I held my breath for the last few chapters, just waiting for the next bite to be taken out of my heart, but that final bite never came. After his talk, I told Lawrence Hill how grateful I was that the heroine had finally had a bit of good luck at the end. I told him I couldn’t have dealt with one more bad thing happening to her and he laughed and said he felt exactly the same way. He, too, had been waiting for some kind of a release from her suffering and that he, too, could not have stood not to have a happy ending.
* In 2007, The Book of Negroes was released in the U.S. by W. W. Norton & Company under the title Someone Knows My Name, but they re-issued a new edition of the novel with the original title in January 2015.
**If you are looking for a funny yet smart biography, I highly recommend Steve Martin’s autobiography Born Standing Up.
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “That Stings!.” Franz Kafka said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” What’s the last thing you read that bit and stung you?