Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Stop on the Underground Railroad, Ghosts, Murder, and a Love Story

Lee Seymour is twenty-seven and feels like she's finally grown up. She has a job at Safe Haven, a Cambridge rehabilitation center for addicts, and she lives with her grandmother, Clara, in the old Harden House. Harden House was a stop on the underground railroad for runaway slaves in the 1850's. Today Clara with the help of Lee and her cousin Bonnie, is preparing the house for inclusion in the Harriet Tubman Network to Freedom National Park. Besides Lee and Bonnie, Clara is helped in this endeavor by Trina Collins, a recovering addict from Safe Haven, and Michael Ennen, a dropout from the Harvard architecture school.

The history of the house is told in the diary of Sarah Harden, a teen-ager in the 1850s. Her father,an abolitionist, welcomed runaway slaves to their home. Because the authorities were becoming more watchful, her father built a safe room, a place to hide the slaves that wasn't apparent from a tour of the inside of the house.

In addition to the history of the underground railroad, the house has a ghost that Lee can feel. There is romance between Michael and Lee and between Sara and a runaway slave, Silas Person. Tragedy stalks the house in both the 1850's and the present. Silas was murdered and his body buried in an unfinished tunnel in the cellar. Clara is also dies and the question of murder arises.

The book is told as two separate, intertwined stories. The modern portion is narrated by Lee; the historical portion,by Sarah's diary. I found the historical portion very well done and accurate. I felt it was better than the modern section. Lee is not an attractive character. She has a prickly personality and believes she's a liberal when in fact she harbors prejudices that she doesn't understand.

The story moves quickly. The only problem is in moving back and forth between the centuries. I found the writing good. It was an easy book to read. If you enjoy historical novels with a tinge of romance and murder, you'll enjoy this book.

I reviewed this book for Net Galley.