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The Price of a Child: A Novel

The Price of a Child: A Novel

4.0 1
by Lorene Cary

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An intimate, gripping novel of the antebellum Underground Railroad, based on the true story of a valiant Philadelphia freedwoman -- the first novel we have had from the author of Black Ice, the "stunning memoir" (New York Times) of a black student's experience at a New England prep school in the 1970S.

The Price of a Child opens in the fall of 1855. A Virginia


An intimate, gripping novel of the antebellum Underground Railroad, based on the true story of a valiant Philadelphia freedwoman -- the first novel we have had from the author of Black Ice, the "stunning memoir" (New York Times) of a black student's experience at a New England prep school in the 1970S.

The Price of a Child opens in the fall of 1855. A Virginia planter is on his way to assume a diplomatic post in Nicaragua, accompanied by his cook, Ginnie, and two of her children (one of whom is his). Temporarily stranded in Philadelphia when they miss their steamboat, Ginnie makes a thrilling leap of the imagination: it is the moment she has been desperately waiting for, the moment she decides to be free. In broad daylight, under the furious gaze of her master, she walks straight out of slavery into a new life -- and into a whole new set of compromising positions. We follow Ginnie as she settles with a respectable and rambunctious black family, as she reinvents herself, christens herself Mercer Gray, dodges slave catchers, lectures far and wide in the cause of abolition, and falls in love with a man whose own ties are a formidable barrier to their happiness. And we see her agonizing all the while about the baby boy she had to leave behind on the plantation, whom she is determined to rescue.

In a remarkable feat of historical empathy, Lorene Cary has created an authentic American heroine -- a woman who finds voice for the appalling loss and bitterness of her past, and who creates within herself a new humanity and an uncompromising freedom.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Set during the antebellum period, Carey's first novel tells of a woman who escapes from slavery only to be haunted by the memory of the baby she had to leave behind. (June)
Library Journal
In 1855, Ginnie and two of her children set out with their slave master for Nicaragua, where he has been appointed U.S. ambassador. Before boarding the ferry in New York, Ginnie connects with operatives in the Underground Railroad who cleverly spirit her to Phildelphia, where she becomes freedwoman Mercer Gray. While eluding slave catchers and struggling to earn a living, she grieves for her youngest child, left behind on the plantation. Through the kindness of friends, she becomes a lecturer in the cause for abolition and travels throughout New England, speaking in meeting halls and churches, reliving her life as a slave, and redefining her freedom. But freedom has a price too; people close to her bicker, cheat, and lie and the only man she loves is trapped in an unfortunate marriage. Cary (Black Ice, LJ 3/1/91) has drawn a vivid portrait of survival and the struggle for self-worth against a backdrop of one of the bleakest periods in American history. Recommended.-Susan Clifford, Hughes Aircraft Co. Lib., Los Angeles
School Library Journal
YA-A wonderful, moving, and truthful account of a slave woman's walk away from her master and toward liberty. Readers share her journey as she cherishes her freedom while being completely aware of its price to her, to her children, and to a free black family who has helped her. It is a very human story of people who have goals and dreams for themselves and are willing to sacrifice for others, and readers should be enriched by sharing this experience. There are no perfect people here; they all suffer and struggle with human weaknesses. American history is brought to immediate life with the details of daily existence in pre-Civil War Philadelphia. Values of freedom, family, and faith are emphasized. Language and sexual descriptions are well within the context of the novel and give it a texture that emphasizes the human condition.-Margaret C. Hecklinger, Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Lillian Lewis
For those of us not having lived the life of a slave, the question of abandoning one's child for freedom is an awesome contemplation. Yet, in this novel, once Ginnie was presented with that option she decided to grasp freedom. The Quick family that Ginnie settles with envelop her with their entangled family politics and expose her to the determination of freed northern blacks, particularly Philadelphia residents, to risk their own liberty for the freedom of others. Ginnie's choice to begin a new life as a free woman dictates that she re-create herself as Mercer Gray, the abolitionist speaker. It is through her persona as Mercer that Ginnie struggles to maintain her freedom while speaking on behalf of those who are not. Through her talks she grows to understand that freedom has hidden dangers, no less than slavery. This delicate portrayal of a woman boldly opting to explore the realities of liberty is a revealing depiction of the struggles of free blacks during the decades of slavery. Mercer learns to live compassionately as a cultured free woman in spite of the historical and personal obstacles to her happiness.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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Random House
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2 MB

Meet the Author

Lorene Cary was raised in Philadelphia and Yeadon, Pennsylvania. She was graduated from St. Paul's School in 1974 and received a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1978. While studying at Sussex University on a Thouron Fellowship for British -- U.S. student exchange, she earned an M.A. in Victorian literature. In 1992, Colby College conferred on her an honorary Doctor of Letters.

In the early 1980S Ms. Cary worked as a writer for Time and as Associate Editor at TV Guide. Since then, she has taught at St. Paul's Shool, Antioch University (Philadelphia campus), and the University of the Arts, and has written articles for such publications as Essence and The Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine. In 1992 she was a contributing editor at Newsweek. Her previous book, Black Ice, was published in 1991 and chosen by the American Library Association as one of its Notable Books for 1992.

Ms. Cary lives in Philadelphia with her husband, R. C. Smith, and their daughters, Laura and Zoe.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Price of a Child 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A powerful novel that deals with the struggle of an individual as she grapples with the truth and lies about being free in pre-civil war times in Philadelphia. The personal cost of freedom as well as the perimeters of freedom are etched in reality in this compelling work. Unforgettable.