The Heart Calls Home

The Heart Calls Home

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by Joyce Hansen

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Living in the past . . .

When Obi left South Carolina, he was a runaway slave. Five years later, in 1866, he has returned as a freed man and a Union Army officer, determined to find the only family he has ever known: his beloved Easter and Jason, the young boy they looked after on the plantation. Obi makes his way to New Canaan, a settlement ofSee more details below


Living in the past . . .

When Obi left South Carolina, he was a runaway slave. Five years later, in 1866, he has returned as a freed man and a Union Army officer, determined to find the only family he has ever known: his beloved Easter and Jason, the young boy they looked after on the plantation. Obi makes his way to New Canaan, a settlement of former slaves, where he learns that Easter is studying in the North. Obi wastes no time in writing to Easter, professing his love and proposing marriage. But it doesn't take long before the two realize that they have changed and have different dreams. Is their love still strong enough to begin a new life together? Or are they just living in the past?

Editorial Reviews

To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, November 1999: This book completes a trilogy; the other titles are Which Way Freedom and Out From This Place. The three books tell an important story of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction. In this last book, the war is over and Obi is in the final months with his army buddies, stationed close to the place he was a slave. All Obi can think of is locating Easter and Jason, whom he knew when they were slaves together. Obi returns to the farm only to find everything changed and the people he knew gone. He follows every lead possible and finally locates Easter's friend, who knows that she is in Philadelphia, studying to become a teacher. Letters between them assure that Easter is willing to marry him and wants to settle on the barrier island off the coast of South Carolina where ex-slaves have started a community called New Canaan. Obi awaits Easter's homecoming, working hard to build a home for them. There are many details of the life these ex-slaves experienced, the politics of the times, the bitter relations between whites and blacks. It is an important time in U.S. history, setting the stage for the end of Reconstruction and the terrible Jim Crow decades that followed. For a brief time, there was hope, and Hansen recreates that time well. Category: Paperback Fiction. KLIATT Codes: JS—Recommended for junior and senior high school students. 1999, HarperTrophy, 242p., Ages 13 to 18. Reviewer: Claire Rosser; KLIATT
Children's Literature - Jessica Becker
This novel tells the story of Obi Booker, a former slave, who is learning the ways of the world as a free black man in South Carolina after the civil war. When Obi left the Jennings Farm and joined the 104th U.S. colored infantry, he earned his own money and Officer's rank, but he also left behind the only home and family he had ever known. Obi cannot give up his hopes of finding his true love, Easter, and the rest of his kin from the farm. When he comes across familiar names at the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands, Obi chooses to resettle on Santa Elena Island in a freedmen's village. Here he tries to rebuild his life, start a carpentry business, and do his part to help the community get by after a devastating storm. These are times of disappointment, hardship, faith and love as Obi and those around him struggle to make a new home for themselves. A new family of good friends and adopted orphan children as well as a long-distance correspondence with Easter, help to make Santa Elena home. Hansen's historical fiction captures the mood of the transitional and difficult post civil war period in this country. Obi's story brings to light the often forgotten stories of many African Americans at the end of the nineteenth century.
Library Journal
Gr 6-10-This final book of the trilogy, begun in Which Way Freedom (1987) and continued in Out from This Place (1988, both Walker), starts in the spring of 1866 in South Carolina. Obi has served in a black Union regiment and has been searching for his fellow former slaves, Easter and Jason, since the end of the war. He finally finds Easter's friends on the island of Santa Elena and learns that she has gone north to be educated as a teacher while the "scampish" Jason is performing in a traveling medicine show. Obi and Easter reconnect via letters; he begs her to return to marry him, and she counsels patience and reminds him of their people's need for teachers. Meanwhile, there is much drama and danger in this Reconstruction era. Property and lives are threatened by forces of nature, a rising black politician is assassinated, and Obi, trying to establish himself as a master carpenter, finds more work building coffins than homes. Dialect and description re-create time and place. However, unlike Out from This Place, in which a white teacher befriends Easter, this book presents a rather negative view of whites. Still, development of the main characters is good, clearly demonstrating the triumphant strength of a people united in love and caring.-Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
15 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Besides soldiers the streets are full of the oddest . . .
children — dirty and ragged.
— letters and diary of laura m. towne April 1868

Obi gazed at the long line of black men with a sprinkling of whites and could not shake the odd feeling that something special was going to happen that day. As usual, whenever Obi was in a new place, he searched for a familiar face — anyone who might give him information about Easter and Jason, or the people who had left the Phillips plantation. Fighting his shyness and distrust of people he didn't know, he even struck up conversations with strangers at times. These often ended up telling Obi their own stories of searching for a sister or brother, a mother or father, a lover, a friend.

In the two years since he'd visited the Jennings farm he had found out nothing. He'd gone back to the farm and the neighborhood surrounding the plantation. He'd also traveled to a few of the coastal islands — Parris, Port Royal, Ladies, Hilton Head'but there were many more that he had yet to step foot on. He promised to visit every one of them. Freed people were still pouring onto the islands, fleeing the beatings and lynchings and the hatred against them that was beginning to spread like a plague.

He carefully studied the faces of the men who were lining up at the courthouse so that they could vote. Perhaps this was his lucky day, and he'd find the one person who could lead him to Easter and Jason.

"We are witnessing history." Thomas startled Obi. "Black men have been given the right to vote," he added.

"Y'all be witnessing buckshots in your hindparts if youdon't pay attention to these woods behind us," Peter said, his eyes roaming the slight rise of hills covered with pine and oak trees.

"Okay, Peter." Obi turned to several other men who were also from the 104th U.S. Colored Infantry, part of a small company of soldiers sent from Beaufort to guard the men voting for a new state constitution.

"Time for another round of patrols, men," Obi said. "Two of y'all go check that thicket. It don't look natural to me." Then he turned to Thomas and Peter. "Let's see what's over on the other side of the hill."

"Good spot for a sniper," Thomas muttered in his clipped northern accent as he rushed ahead of Obi and Peter.

Peter, large and husky, frowned at Obi. "Soon as I muster out of this army, I'm leaving the South. You still ain't free if you can't go and vote without soldiers guarding you. Let me tell you, the only reason the freed people ain't all been killed dead is 'cause the army and the Freedmen's Bureau still here. When they go — " He ran his index finger across his throat. "Death to all blacks and all Republicans — white ones too."

"Hush, Peter," Obi said. "Concentrate on what we doing here."

Obi watched the back of Thomas's large head bobbing up and down, and his nervous quick movements as he stomped through the brush, loudly crunching dried leaves and twigs. That city boy still scared of the woods, he mused. "Peter, make Thomas slow down. He sound like a herd of buffalo, someone hear him coming a mile away."

Suddenly, one of the soldiers who'd walked toward the thicket on the other side of the hill called out, "Corporal Booker. Over here."

Obi ran to him, with Peter and Thomas following. "My God," Thomas gasped.

Three frightened children were huddled in the thicket. Their feet were tied with filthy rags, and the eldest child wore a long shift so old and worn it seemed as though it would crumble at a touch, like yellowed parchment. The two younger children, one of them a toddler, wore dirty shirttails and were partially covered with a dirty blue blanket. Sores and scars covered their arms and legs.

Obi kneeled in front of the biggest girl, who appeared to be about ten years old. He couldn't tell whether the other two children were male or female. The girl cradled the toddler in her arms. The other child held on to the girl's ragged dress.

"You the only one taking care of these children?" Obi asked.

She nodded, staring at the ground.

"Where's your mama?"

"She dead," the girl answered in a leaden voice. "They all dead."

"Who? Your kin?"

"Everybody where we live. The white men come there. Pull everyone out the houses. Kill everybody."

"How you know everybody was killed?"

"They was hanging in the trees. Everybody. Miss Emma, Mr. George, Daniel, their boy used to play with us. Mr. Edward, Miss — "

Obi patted her shoulder and stopped the recital. The images her words created were clear enough. Her story was the worst he'd heard so far.

"Lord, lord, lord," one of the soldiers murmured.

Obi continued. "Where this happen?"She still stared at the ground. "Pine Bluff."

"In South Carolina?"

"I don't know, sir."

"How you get away?"

"My mama and us hide in the woods. Then when the men leave the next morning, we see everybody hanging. All of them. Miss Emma, Mr. George — "

"I'll get their names later. What happen to your mama?"

"We leave, and some white people help us. Carry us in a wagon. But my mama give out. She say though that we not from Pine Bluff. Say our home be in South Carolina. She tell us to go to the island. Our home is on the island."

"What island?"

"I don't know, sir."

"How you get here?"

"The white people give us to some black people and we walk and ride in boat and wagon with them. They leave us at the house down there." She raised her head slightly and pointed to the courthouse. "Say someone there help us. But we afraid and hide in the woods." She spoke in a flat monotone and stared at the ground again...

The Heart Calls Home. Copyright © by Joyce Hansen. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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