Monday, August 22, 2011

#BookReview: SONG YET SUNG by James McBride

I did not expect to like to this book.  As a matter of fact, it sat in my "to be read" pile for three weeks before I even picked it up.  Even then, I only did so because it was due back at the library soon.  Out of all of the books in my stack, it's the one I should have picked up first because I absolutely loved it.

With Song Yet Sung James McBride has managed the perfect blend of historical fiction with just a little touch of the paranormal.  In reading it, I'm reminded of Octavia E. Butler's Kindred.  Song Yet Sung follows the lives of slaves and slave catchers along Maryland's eastern shore.  In an area full of abolitionists, free men and oysterman, Amber and Wiley live a peaceful existence with their widowed mistress and her son. The peace on their farm is interrupted the day "the Dreamer" comes into their lives.

Captured by the notorious slave stealer, Patty Cannon, and her gang, the beautiful Liz finds herself locked in the attic with fourteen other slaves.  Injured during her capture, she's nursed back to health by "the woman with no name."  When a turn of events frees the captives, the elderly woman with no name knows that freedom is not in her future.  Instead, she gives to Liz the code that will lead her to freedom. Today, most have heard of the codes that were quilted into blocks during slavery to guide runaways along their journey.  These codes would tell slaves in the area if it was save to move, if someone was on the run, in which direction they should go, etc.  Though she doesn't understand the code, Liz makes note of it and starts her quest to freedom.

Liz dreams of a future that includes yellow, brown and white people standing on a large campground listening to a brown man singing the song yet sung; brown people in moving machines shooting other brown people; and children losing themselves in front of a talking box.  With the help of the mysterious Woolman who lives in the swamp, the blacksmith, an oysterman and Amber, Liz's dreams are realized.

What did you like about this book?
It was so unexpectedly good.  You definitely have to be a thinking person to understand the dreams of which Liz speaks.  The addition of Patty Cannon, a real person, made the story that much more captivating.

What did you dislike about this book?
I was unclear on maybe two or three paragraphs right at the end of the book.  I'm sure re-reading them may bring some clarity.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Nothing.  James McBride seems to hit it out of the ballpark each time.

Published February 2008

Originally posted June 28, 2010


  1. I read this a whlie ago. I don't remember the characters that well. Was there a mountain man or a ghost that lived in the woods? I do remember enjoying the story.

  2. You're thinking of the Woolman. Since no one had ever seen him, everyone thought he was a ghost or a mythical legend.