"A Child Went Forth" by Boston Teran; High Top Publishing (332 pages, $22)
The award-winning author and cult sensation known as Boston Teran, who keeps his real identity a secret, is back with the thrilling and thought-provoking new book, "A Child Went Forth."
The book opens with 13-year-old Charlemagne Griffin - Charlie - and his father in New York in 1851, appealing to clergyman Henry Ward Beecher (brother of the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" author) to raise money for the abolitionist cause in Kansas.
Charlie and his father Zacharia are con men, and they make away with $4,000 hidden in the boy's coat and no intention of turning these donations over to the cause. And with that, the book is off to an exciting start.
Then Zacharia is shot dead, leaving young Charlie to make their planned journey alone - to reunite with his mother in an asylum in Cincinnati. But finding his mother in no condition to leave, and with guilt creeping in over the ill-gotten money he's carrying, Charlie sees only one path forward: to meet up with the abolitionists in Kansas and do the right thing.
Charlie's odyssey is an epic one, through free and slave states, being kidnapped and almost sold into slavery himself, and encountering a stunning cast of characters both historical and richly dreamed up by Teran.
There's the legendary undertaker and Underground Railroad smuggler Erastus Eels, the flamboyant millionaire and freestater Butler Phillips, and his rival - the murderous Dixie Jack. Walt Whitman even makes a cameo. Meanwhile, Charlie is still being hunted across the country by the men who killed his father and want his money.
"A Child Went Forth" is engrossing from the beginning, setting up high stakes and dire circumstances for Charlie and everyone he meets along the way. His journey meanders just a bit at first, with a long train ride out of New York, but then it picks up pace and doesn't relent.
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Teran's style is enthralling, showing us the world through Charlie's eyes and in the colloquial, frequently humorous voice of a young boy raised by a con man.
Aside from the adventure factor, Teran also takes a unique look at this time period in America, with corruption, race relations, matters of faith and all-out violence and lawlessness coming to a head in the Midwest in the years before the Civil War. And amidst all the drama and danger, this story is really a coming-of-age tale.
Many fans have speculated about the true identity of author Boston Teran, and whether he's a well-known writer using a pseudonym, or perhaps a group of writers, or a woman. But whoever he (or she?) is, this latest book is a stunningly vivid work of historical fiction that adds to an already celebrated career.
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