I love it when an author reads a historical fact and decides to create a story around it. This is what Ann H. Gabhart has done in River to Redemption. From the first page I was caught up in the lives of Adria, Louis, Matilda and Ruth in my home state of Kentucky. It is 1833 when the cholera epidemic starts to claim lives in Springfield, Kentucky and families are changed forever. Seven year old Adria Starr loses her mother, father and baby brother to this dreaded disease and in a matter of days she becomes an orphan. The scene when a "black giant" finds her with her dead mother and baby brother will forever remain in my mind. Her fear of this man and her reluctance to leave her mommy and baby Eddie change when he carries her from her house and "away from the bad air" and takes her to his friend Matilda Sims. It is here that Adria finds love and healing and she would have been content to stay with Matilda and Louis forever but they are both black and Louis knows Springfield society will never accept this. He asks the widow of the recently deceased school teacher if she will give Adria a home and we see a family being born.
The characters in this story are very well developed. Adria is like most children and she sees people with her heart and not her eyes. The color of Matilda and Louis's skin has no affect on her love for them. Matilda wants Louis to cross the Ohio River and seek freedom but he feels obligated to remain with his master. Louis is a wise man who often quotes the Bible and he feels that God had a reason to keep him from being one of the few who didn't develop cholera. Kind, caring and faithful, Louis is based on a real person and he is reminds me of some older black gentlemen that I knew in my childhood. At first the character Ruth Harmon feels inferior to care for Adria but we see a bond develop and grow between them. Sometimes we all just to need to trust God and let Him do the rest!
River to Redemption spans the years between 1833 and 1845 and readers see how Kentucky was affected by the cholera epidemic that ravaged the area in 1833. A few miles from my own home there is a cemetery where the majority of the graves were for cholera victims. This story allows us to also witness slavery and the beginning of abolition. We watch Adria as she takes up Matilda's efforts in encouraging Louis to seek freedom and the beginning of her secretive support of the abolitionist movement. We rejoice in the strong family unit that was the result of Louis's rescue of seven year old Adria Starr and his wise decision to seek Ruth Harmon's help. And when we read the Author's Note we can feel pride in the citizens of Springfield, Kentucky and their efforts to purchase the real Louis's freedom from slavery.
This book has tragedy and loss but it is also filled with love, faith, hope and the reminder that families are not always created by birth. I appreciate the many references to Bible scripture throughout the book and I especially love that "pray believing" is the cental thought woven throughout this story
Ann H. Gabhart is a Kentucky author and she has written an outstanding book about our state. I recommend River to Redemption for anyone who enjoys historical Christian fiction and I wish that I could give it more than the five stars available!
I received a complimentary copy of this book but I wasn't obligated to post a review. All opinions are my own.