A new book by the author of “Gap Creek,” Robert Morgan’s “Chasing the North Star” is a finalist for the Southern Book Award.
Set in pre-Civil War times, the story follows a crafty teenaged runaway slave named Jonah Williams on a northward journey towards freedom, from the Carolina mountains all the way to Ithaca, New York. Along the way, Jonah’s adventures and his contacts with the people he meets reminded me of the travels of Inman, the Civil War soldier in Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain.”
Early on Jonah meets a young enslaved woman named Angel, who decides to follow him. Sometimes together, sometimes separated, they make their sometimes different ways towards freedom, drifting past Asheville in a stolen small boat on the French Broad River, walking to Kingsport, finding work in a high-class brothel in Roanoke, with close calls and adventures on every pathway and at every stop.
Peter Geye writing in the Minneapolis Star Tribune said, “What is unequivocal about this novel is the verve of Morgan's scenic imagination. Whether he's writing about a master whipping his slave or Jonah and Angel making love for the first time or, perhaps the novel's most stunning scene, Jonah riding an unmoored shack down a flooded river plain, the writing is visual and powerful and even breathtaking at times.”
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EDITOR’S NOTES: D.G. Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch” Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on WUNC-TV. This week, Robert Morgan talks about “Chasing the North Star” at both times.