Song Yet Sung
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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Good Lord Bird, winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction, and Kill 'Em and Leave, a James Brown biography.
In the days before the Civil War, a runaway slave named Liz Spocott breaks free from her captors and escapes into the labyrinthine swamps of Maryland’s eastern shore, setting loose a drama of violence and hope among slave catchers, plantation owners, watermen, runaway slaves, and free blacks. Liz is near death, wracked by disturbing visions of the future, and armed with “the Code,” a fiercely guarded cryptic means of communication for slaves on the run. Liz’s flight and her dreams of tomorrow will thrust all those near her toward a mysterious, redemptive fate.
Filled with rich, true details—much of the story is drawn from historical events—and told in McBride’s signature lyrical style, Song Yet Sung is a story of tragic triumph, violent decisions, and unexpected kindness.
runaway slaves, a sponge for freedom seekers, sucking them out of the woods of Virginia, North Carolina, and points south like a bilge pump. And her slaves, she knew, could not be that oblivious. She recalled even mentioning this to her husband, the notion that there was something in the air, for the question of slavery had been festering for a while, long before he died. But Boyd, who often came home after days of oystering on the Chesapeake exhausted, was thankful to have the strength of Nate
regularly and naturally. Be silent. Wait. Waiting was how he had saved himself when he first found himself alone in the wild nineteen years ago. He was a tiny boy then, his memories like the winter breath of the Chesapeake that blew against his broad, uncovered shoulders: chilly, not warm, but manageable. He had come to the Land with his mother. It was she who had taught him to hunt, to stand frozen for hours at a time until the prey wandered close, then spring forward to move against it. It was
the missus. The Sullivans were the kindest family in Dorchester County as far as he was concerned, and when he got to where he was going, wherever that was, he planned to get a job and save enough money to buy himself from Miss Kathleen free and clear. He had his sister to contend with, after all. Mary, he knew, would never leave. She spent too many mornings as Miss Kathleen did, standing out in front of the cabin facing the bay, watching the horizon, hoping the ragged mutton-leg sail of Mr.
nobody round here, Liz said. The blacksmith’s face clouded and he blew out his cheeks. Hell you ain’t, he retorted. Telling yarns and stories. Got folks all stoked up. Big Linus is dead, you know. They found him in Sitchmas Creek with near most his head blowed off. They got Sarah and Louie Hughes in the jailhouse on suspicion of helping him. That’s five years in jail plus the cost of Big Linus to whoever owned him. How’s them apples? You ain’t curried nothing but trouble. Liz, sitting in a ball
owner could be sold. A dead slave, on the other hand, was cash out the window, plus the cost of burial. He glanced at Kathleen Sullivan, who had turned away in disgust from the arguing constables and seated herself on the only chair on the porch. She had recovered from the previous night, and while she still looked anxious, he could see her dark eyes carefully scanning everything about her: the boats, the other watermen waiting to put out to the bay. He took note of the shapely, full figure