Tuesday, June 20, 2017

The Underground River by Martha Conway

Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this is the moving, page-turning story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love.

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who ferry babies given up by their slave mothers across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her new-found friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of Dr. Early who captures runaways and sells them back to their southern masters.

As May’s secrets become more tangled and harder to keep, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for all her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to trap those who know her best.


About The Author

Martha Conway is the author of The Underground River, coming June 20, 2017, from Simon & Schuster. She's also the author of Thieving Forest, Sugarland, and 12 Bliss Street, which was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best First Novel. She's received several awards for historical fiction, including the North American Book Award. Her short fiction has been published in the Iowa Review, the Carolina Quarterly, The Quarterly, Folio, an other journals. She teaches creative writing for Stanford University's Continuing Studies Program and UC Berkeley Extension.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Martha is one of seven sisters. She currently lives in San Francisco.


My Review

This is really May Bedlow’s story; the author has us walking in her shoes, from the first page to the end. A young woman who cannot tell a lie, or when she does she is reciting the Greek alphabet, or will she learn with all that happens in her life.
Can you imagine being on a steamboat and having it blow up around you, and then having to swim for your life, thank goodness she knew how, and then she helps others.
It does take over half the book to set up the side story of helping rescue babies across the Ohio River and to freedom. What a concept, when you think about the sacrifices these mothers made for their infants, a heart breaking decision for sure.
May has a gift with a sewing needle, and because of that she is at the right place at the right time, and it becomes her life to live on a show boat, making all the costumes and helping put on the performances.
Watch what happens when evil rears it ugly head and greed tries to take over, will our girl survive, and will this be then end of these daring rescues?
I received this book through Touchstone Publishing and was not required to give a positive review. 

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