The Freedom Maze
by Delia Sherman
Narrated by Robin Miles
Published in 2011 by Big Mouth House
Audiobook published in 2012 by Listening Library
WHO: Thirteen-year old Sophie Fairchild Martineau, a white girl in the segregated and deeply racist South, and from an old Louisiana family to boot…
WHAT: is placed in the care of her aunts one summer…
WHERE: at the old Fairchild plantation, Oak River (in the Bayou country outside of New Orleans) where there is a maze…
WHEN: that becomes the portal between 1960 and 1860…
WHY: via the agency of a trickster, a sort of Voudoun familiar who fulfills Sophie’s wish, “I want to travel through time and have grand adventures and brothers and sisters and have everybody love me.”
HOW: Owing to her summer tan and skimpy clothing, Sophie is mis-identified as a slave and experiences life as a a yard slave, a house slave and as a field slave. Blood relationships become complicated and the sense of family becomes more of a matter of friendship than blood. Not everybody ended up loving Sophie, so the trickster shafted her on that score; but Sophie did develop deep bonds and insight to race as a construct.
+ This book works well as a counter to the common perception and stereotypes of antebellum South as being one big lawn party out of the pages/screen of Gone with the Wind. The author has taken pains to portray slave-hood with a measure of accuracy and; also brought to the fore the blurriness of using skin color as a qualifier to indicate race. Race as a social construct is further though lightly reinforced in the modern prejudice against Sophie’s step-mother who is Jewish.
+ There is also the secondary story line involving Sophie’s own sense of freedom and independence as a young teen. Sophie’s part in the story in 1860 is over when she takes action that shows that she has changed from being a passive player in her own drama to a more dynamic one; and this in turn gives her the fortitude to take more risks in asserting herself in 1960.
– I would have liked to have seen Sophie’s adventures in 1860 drawn out a little longer as it is not clear how the break (removal from 1860 action) was accounted for then. Somehow this seems important and something of a cop-out to have this gap.
– There were a number of references to other books that I am not familiar with. I may have missed some double entendres as a result
+ Robin Miles provides a clear soothing voice that articulates the differences between the whites and the various castes of slaves well.
– Sibilance in some passages: May be due to de-essing process or post-production compression
n.b. SEX/-UAL, DRUGS & VIOLENCE: There is the threat of rape in one scene; but no sex acts committed. There is a passage which talks about how the protag gets her first period and a description of feminine hygiene. Violence is threatened or alluded to (whipping; the punishment of one runaway slave having involved the slave being returned pole-bound and burnt ), but all off-camera. Sophie is struck hard in one scene. There is no drug usage.
OTHER: I purchased a digital dnload edition of The Freedom Maze (by Delia Sherman; narrated by Robin Miles) from iTunes. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.
I have challenged myself to read forty books this summer. Many books will be backlist titles as I’m trying to clear the stacks; but I have no doubt that new releases will make their way in too! 😉