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In the summer of 1864, sixteen-year-old Rhoda Strong lives in the Lumbee Indian settlement of Robeson County, North Carolina, which has become a pawn in the bloody struggle between the Union and Confederate armies. The community is besieged by the marauding Union Army as well as the desperate Home Guard who are hell-bent on conscripting the young men into deadly forced labor. Daughter of a Scotsman and his formidable Lumbee wife, Rhoda is fiercely loyal to her family and desperately fears for their safety, but her love for the outlaw hero Henry Berry Lowrie forces her to cast her lot with danger. Her struggle becomes part of the community's in a powerful story of love and survival. Nowhere Else on Earth is a moving saga that magnificently captures a little-known piece of American history.
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I begin with an afternoon in the summer of 1864, a season of bad heat and rain. War raged somewhere and probably love too, but I was safe from both, I thought. I didn't know they were sneaking up to storm me by surprise and wreck me. There had been signs-mud snakes in the well, thunderbolts cracking our nights like warning shots-but I was fifteen. I read things wrong.
We had spent the morning sweltering behind a barred door, with daylight only through chinks and our one high window in the gable. The Home Guard was on a tear again, so Cee wouldn't let us out. She was the kind of mother who might sometimes risk her own neck but never ours.
I was sick with the heat and confinement. After six hours of it I broke.
"I can't breathe!"
"Lie down by the cat hole," she said.
So I got some air there, with my nose next to the little cutout square at the bottom of the door, hoping Cee would say, You poor thing, which she didn't. Under the floor our gold dog, Girl, snuffled and whined, scratching out a hollow to lie in. Through the cracks I could smell the turpentine we rubbed on her for fleas and yellow flies, and probably she could smell me, I was so sweaty. Whispering down to her, "Poor thing, poor you," I spied out the cat hole, but all I saw was a patch of the ordinary world.
Nothing moved in the drowned cornfield. Rainwater stood in pools like flat tin, and no birds flew. It didn't look like danger, it only looked like home, still and beautiful and scorching green. Now and then a dry pod snapped in the chimney vines, flinging seed across the roof like sand. Deep in the matted honeysuckle on the porch a lizard hid, and suddenly his throat bubbled red.
I said, "There's nothing out there but the usual."
"What did I teach you? Before you take a chance, you figure your what?"
"You mean to tell me they turned in our favor?"
"Sit tight then."
In the early afternoon Henderson Oxendine came to tell us the Guard had been seen on the Lumberton Road heading our way. Eleven horsemen riding hard, Brant Harris in the lead. Henderson said we better let him take Boss and Andrew out to the swamps to hide with the young Lowries. At first I wasn't paying close attention to what he said, I was noticing how both his pants legs were worn through to his scrawny knees.
Cee thought Andrew and Boss too young to let go, only seventeen and fifteen.
"And if I can't protect my own boys against a half-blind bunch not even fit for the Rebel army then what am I good for?" she said to Henderson, still a boy himself not yet twenty but serious as a preacher, born that way. I'd known Henderson all my life, he was my childhood favorite up until I was thirteen, when Margaret Ransom came along, frisky and pretty and down-to-earth as a turnip, and a lot easier to talk to than Henderson. Besides, Cee thought it was time I had a girl for a best friend instead of running down to the fish traps with that boy every day, so Henderson and I drifted apart, me with Margaret and him with his brother Calvin.
But when I saw him again, with his bare knees and his knowing eyes, I was a little sorry I had swapped him for Margaret in the first place. If I'd stuck with Henderson, I told myself, things might have turned out different. His appeal went beyond the ordinary, to something in the spirit realm. He had a gift of music that could move the doubtingest heart. Whenever there was a brush-arbor preaching, or a husking or a picnic, someone would call on Henderson for a hymn. His face was narrow and bright, his eyes deep with the true, mysterious, hopeless love of things that can't be seen. The times I heard him sing, I said to myself it was too bad a boy like that couldn't be traveling the world, singing the praises of the Lord in his sweet, sad voice to the heathen.
But under the present circumstances-hunger and peril-Henderson wouldn't be singing for a while. He and his brother Calvin and their cousin Steve Lowrie and some others were trying to dodge the Guard and not get conscripted to Wilmington for forced labor at the salt factory or the Fort Fisher earthworks. The macks had decided they'd rather not send any more slaves for work that broke them or even killed them, so the solution was "Send Scuffletown." They wouldn't have our boys as soldiers but they grabbed them quick enough for slave labor. Word was that Steve Lowrie's brother Henry-the great Henry, who nobody could outrun-had been caught and sent.
But the truth was, when boys went missing like that you couldn't be sure what had happened. They would vanish off the lane on a quiet morning, and no one knew their fate or if we would ever lay eyes on them again. It is terrible to hope your boys are slaving somewhere, but that was what we had to hope.
"There's no end in sight," Henderson said. "And Harris is taking boys younger now, to fill the requirement. Somebody's helping him, writing up a list and telling him where to hunt. We think it might be the postmaster."
"James Barnes?" Daddy said, and Henderson nodded.
The postmaster knew us. He lived down the river half a mile.
Henderson offered to take Andrew and Boss to where the Lowries were lying out, but he wasn't allowed to say exactly where that was, for our own safety. Nobody was to know, not even mothers, not even Preacher Sinclair, who was passing information to the lie-outers. Sinclair and Dr. McCabe and Lawyer Macmillan were three among a handful of macks who took an interest in the settlement-all of them good-intentioned but one way or another troubled in mind and therefore not to be confided with the whole story.
"I brought a little something," Henderson said, and he put three eggs on the table. I never had seen anything so pretty. Eggs! I'd forgotten how they looked. The way they sat there, smooth and perfect, gave me a shiver of pleasure.
"Did you get you one?" Cee asked him.
But, thank goodness, he shook his head.
"And how did you come by these eggs, Henderson?" she said.
"Some folks still has hens. Mr. Allen's got his underneath the floorboards, trained to hush when someone comes. He closes the trapdoor, and there's not a peep."
"Allen's playing you along," she said. "Chickens don't fuss in the dark anyway. They think they been swallowed, they think it's doomsday."
From my corner I said, "Swallowed alive. Never again to run free or see the light of day or breathe the sweet air of God's green-"
"You didn't swipe them, did you?" Cee said.
"No'm. They were given to me to give," Henderson said.
"In a way of speaking."
"-swallowed into the pitch black dark, no ray of hope..."
Finally she looked at me and saw my puffed face, my damp curls clinging to my neck.
"Bless your heart," she said, and meant it. She held out an arm and I went to sit by her knee so she could fan me.
Daddy said let Henderson take the boys. "I've done some lying out myself, in my time," he said. "It ain't nothing to be ashamed of when your life is on the line." He told Henderson, if the Lowries were at Devilsden in Back Swamp like he'd heard, and if they had as many guns as he'd heard-he paused but Henderson didn't say yes or no-then Boss and Andrew should go.
"It's Lowries and you two Oxendines out there, I believe, along with one white one, McLaughlin, and one black one, Applewhite. I have it on good authority. Am I right, Henderson?"
I smiled to hear Daddy quote me as a good authority.
"I've given my oath not to say, Mr. Strong," Henderson answered.
I said, "I guess Steve Lowrie didn't give his or if he did it's bum. He came in Pate's last week telling everyone Henry was taken off to Wilmington but Applewhite joined in his place. Steve said they have five revolvers, ten shotguns, four Union rifles, and a plan to get a bunch more."
To gain Henderson's attention I may have left the impression I'd been at Pate's store myself to hear this when really it was something I had overheard said between Cee and her friend Nelly Gibson the day before. I thought I might impress Henderson with my up-to-the-minute knowledge. But he was keeping his eyes off me. I wasn't playing the flirt, all I wanted was to be seen as another human being in the room. I wanted to say, It's just the same old me, Henderson, but suddenly I wondered how true that was. Time had been at work on me since our childhood days.
Looking at his shoes, Henderson said, "If Applewhite's with us-and I'm not saying he is or he isn't-then we're lucky to have him."
This was George Applewhite, who had once been a slave in the Marion District but found the life not to his taste and made his way to us, dodging the catchers for so long now-five years at least-they would soon surely have to declare him dead or northernized.
"Ap can keep the boys safe," Daddy said.
Cee said, "And I can't?"
"I don't mean you aren't a strong woman, Celia Ann," Daddy said, his tongue rolling with the sound of his childhood home. His Gaelic was long gone, since Cee never let him talk it, and sometimes you could have thought he was settlement-born, he came so close to what was called the long talk, the Scuffletown sound. But his burr crept back when he was anxious. Then you heard Isle of Skye coming through.
"You're the strongest in the world," he said to her ("sdungest in the wudduld"), "but how could you hold off the Guard? Or how could I? And suppose Harris starts thinking, 'Well, he's halt but he's a digger, ain't he?' Barnes gave me a hard look at the post office last week, he might put my name down. But I don't want to be took, Cee. My knee, my constitution...Maybe we all ought to go with Henderson and lie out till the war ends. Wilmington would be the end of me. I'd not survive the climate, I don't have the strength of the rest of them-"
"Johnny, that's why you won't be took."
"You don't think they'll come for me?"
"Not an old bustard like you. You got my word, it's the truth if I ever told it. Besides, you forgot, you're not the shade of color that's preferred for fort work."
That settled his mind, and he quieted down. Half her time was spent calming him, keeping his thoughts off the subjects that could plow him under (jail, death, and my bleak future). Ever since the day they met she had been his guarantee against despair, and if she had her own share deep down, she hid it. I wondered if other marriages worked by the same arrangement, wives shooing off husbands' gloom by teasing, soothing, badgering, any trick in the book to bolster them.
Cee said thank you to Henderson but she would keep Andrew and Boss at home, and he could have the pail of potatoes by the hearth. They were resin-baked, a specialty from the old days when Dorcas, my grandmother I never met, cooked for the turpentine woods crew. You dig a hole and bury the potatoes under a thick layer of wet moss, add your lightwood and a ladle of gum, stand back and throw in a match. This is best done at night, to see the flare whoosh up toward the stars and then settle back to a long steady burn. By the time it's down to a flicker, the potatoes are done, and you spoon them out of the ashes. Then you cool and peel and eat them. The taste of the resin isn't strong, it's more like a tinge, a something, that bumps your memory back to other times and your thoughts back to times even before memory. Resin-baked potatoes was my only knowledge of Dorcas Sweet aside from her death by suicide.
Henderson looked in the pail, and I hoped he would decline but he took out two-my mouth watered just to see the charred papery skin and orange flesh showing through popped blisters-and he lingered by the door with the potatoes in his hands. He seemed to have something else to say, or maybe he misunderstood my longing gaze. Don't take them, I was thinking, even though his bony knees proved he could use some fattening up.
I wasn't as generous as my mother, and I hadn't yet learned how to kill hunger by force of will, as she could, or the even better trick of holding it and using it as a power. I was always famished. But sometimes my belly wanted something more than ordinary food. It wanted a food like fire, like iron, or earth itself in fistfuls. People do sometimes crave things that don't make sense, they will eat clay and swallow swords for no earthly reason. But it could be they've learned food only feeds hunger. To kill it, you need something stronger.
Suddenly I noticed, and my mother noticed, how Henderson was looking at me now. He started to say something, but then he thought better of it. He took his leave and backed out, and Cee bolted the door with the new iron rod Boss had just added to replace the thumb bolt he said was too puny now, in these times.
We had a new key lock, too, that Boss had put together from parts collected off the locksmith's trash pile in Lumberton. Boss was the promise of the family, the one I put my hopes in. We were close, Boss and me, less than a year apart, alike in features and complexion-but he was slight for his age, and I felt motherly to him more than sisterly. I had decided I wouldn't give him up to the Lowries or the Home Guard. The Lowries would have to take me too if they took him, and the Guard would have to kill me. Boss was my darling, my little man. He didn't let me cuddle him anymore, but I could at least throw my arm around his shoulder and he would lean against me. He was who I loved most on earth.
Others loved him too-his blue-gray careful eyes, his slow deliberate talk, and his singing voice, second only to Henderson's. But Boss's own passion was for locks and clocks and springlatches, anything that had a mechanism of little parts. He could make gadgets work after other people had given up, using needles and a punchbelly file to fix the inner workings, those springs no bigger than a grain of rice and cogwheels smaller than a wedding ring. For our lock, he made a key from a spoon. He was an uncommonly directed boy. The pleasures young men often care for, drink and revelry, shooting and whoring or knocking women about, Boss showed no interest in. He never even wrestled Andrew-I did, and I was good at it.
But I don't mean Boss was scaredy or girlish. He only had his mind on other things, and his way was to watch and listen. Someday, he was going to be-well, I hesitate even now to say my plans for Boss. I had hopes for him so high that to tell them then would have made me sound crazy and still might. He was born for something more than ditching and chopping-and the future I dreamed up for him was work I'd never known anyone to aim for. I wanted him to be a poet. I wanted him to adventure out into the world and learn its ways, not losing himself in the jumble of life but seeing it with a poet's eye, and withdrawing later to a library room where he would write his poems of revelation. He would tell what he had seen. This was my big plan, one that today seems both a pipe dream and a prophecy. Boss never wrote a word in his life. But he did see.
Reprinted from Nowhere Else on Earth by Josephine Humphreys by permission of Viking Publisher, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright (c) 2000 Josephine Humphreys. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
What People are Saying About This
It is one of those rare books -- wholly original and so resonant that its voices linger long after the last page has come and gone. (Of course this may have something to do with the fact that the novel, once finished, compels you to begin it again.) The inevitable comparisons come to mind - Lonesome Dove, Cold Mountain, much of Faulkner, the masterful literary histories -- but comparison, even to books as wonderful as these, diminishes Jo's accomplishment here. Shot through with quiet wisdom, funny, imbued with love, she has managed to put on the page the kind of storytelling that used to be the province of the front porch or of evenings before the fire, when time collapsed and long ago drew so near it was palpable.
"Humphreys has always been a master of telling a larger story through a deceptively intimate narrative, and Rhoda's tale, with its clear, distinct voice, is no exception." The New Yorker
"A novel so compelling works a kind of magic, casting a spell. . . . She has distilled to a splendid coherence the complexities of history and the human heart." —The Washington Post
"With fluid writing, nuanced characters, and a suspenseful pace, Humphreys blends historical romance with a meditation on the ambiguities of race and morality." —Time
"Josephine Humphreys has always been a very, very, good novelist...with Nowhere Else on Earth...[she] has taken a quantum leapfrom very, very, good to extraordinary." —The San Diego Union-Tribune
"Though I loved her three previous novels, Nowhere Else on Earth ... the narrator, Rhoda Strong, belongs to the ages, a fabulous creation." Pat Conroy
Nowhere Else on Earth absolutely throbs with passion. It moved me to tears. It's honest, it's gripping and it's exquisitely written. What an accomplishment!
Josephine Humphreys has written a masterpiece, a story of a rare woman, of time and place that achieves, somehow and most miraculously, more power as the pages are turned. Nowhere Else on Earth should be read immediately and for ever.
Reading Group Guide
"Scuffletown as a place was anchored but driftable and as an idea it had the floating nature of a dream. In either form it was hard for strangers to reach."
—Josephine Humphreys, Nowhere Else on Earth
A swamp-bound settlement on the banks of the Lumbee River is the setting for Josephine Humphreys' Nowhere Else on Earth, a novel drawn from the true history of North Carolina's Lumbee Indians. Virtually hidden from neighboring Scots planters and black slaves, Scuffletown suffers severe hardships during the Civil War, facing increasing aggression from a loose collective of whites known as the Home Guard who conspire to send Scuffletown men and boys for forced labor on the vast earthworks at Fort Fisher.
Scuffletown's "first family" is the Lowrie clan, whose fortunes intertwine with those of the novel's narrator, Rhoda Strong. As Indians, Scuffletowners are unprotected by the law and instead rely heavily on inter-family ties and the force of a gang led by the nineteen-year-old Henry Berry Lowrie. The Lumbee Indians' lineage and allegiances are central to the novel. In a eulogy for his murdered sons, George Lowrie recounts the Lumbee commitment to the American cause, reminding those assembled that Scuffletowners fought against the British Tories in the American Revolution and were at one time allowed to vote in national elections—a privilege they no longer enjoy. No group-even other Carolina Indians, like the Cherokee—will claim them, and yet it is the Lumbees who may be America's most legitimate colonial heirs. History suggests they may be direct descendants of the first "lost" American colony, Sir Walter Raleigh's Roanoke, a possibility that radically underscores the disenfranchisement they suffer in the nineteenth century.
Rhoda Strong is fifteen in the summer of 1864 when the tensions between the Home Guard and the Lowrie Gang begin to escalate. While the Strongs conceal themselves in their house to wait out the Home Guard's latest conscription campaign, Rhoda dreams of love—only to find it realized in the one man her mother has warned her would be a dangerous choice. With local antagonism still running high, Rhoda suspends her hopes while Cee worries that Henry's gang will further sabotage the legitimacy of the Lumbees. An explosive series of events then erupts in the settlement. Brant Harris has taken Rhoda's childhood friend Margaret hostage for a debt she cannot pay and the Lowrie Gang attempts an aborted rescue. The town postmaster, James Barnes, is robbed and he blames the Lowries. Harris is killed, but the Home Guard, led now by his former deputy, Roderick McTeer, continues to harass the Lumbees. In the New Year, the Union Army wins a major victory at Fort Fisher, and the entire settlement feels a now-acute shortage of food and supplies. Barnes is killed in a mysterious fashion after publicly blaming the Lowries for robbing his farm. When Henry Lowrie finds Rhoda alone and caring for a wounded Union soldier, their love affair begins in earnest.
But the "lifetime knot" tied by Henry and Rhoda is brutally tested by the events that follow. In a shocking development, Henry's father and brother are killed, execution-style, by McTeer and his men. Sherman's victories consolidate the Union position and Scuffletown looks optimistically for a new peace in the redefined nation. Henry, however, is irrevocably changed. Even though a final robbery by the gang ensures that they will be able to escape Scuffletown and start anew, the victory is bittersweet. Rhoda faces a stark choice: to follow the man she loves, or to let her life be guided by the intrinsic loyalty she feels for a place and a people that count her among their own. Threaded with meditations on love, justice, and sacrifice, and shot through with a sense of the prevailing optimism of the human spirit, Nowhere Else on Earth humanizes the condition of a country at war with itself.
ABOUT JOSEPHINE HUMPHREYS
Josephine Humphreys is the recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. She is the author of Dreams of Sleep (winner of the 1985 Ernest Hemingway Award for first fiction), Rich in Love(made into a major motion picture), and The Fireman's Fair. She lives in Charleston, South Carolina.
A CONVERSATION WITH JOSEPHINE HUMPHREYS
How much of the Lumbees' story is based on history and fact? What drew you to the story?
I first learned about the Lumbees when I was seventeen, riding a train through North Carolina. A dark-haired girl, just married that morning, boarded the train near Lumberton and took the seat next to me. Still in the white sundress and jacket she'd worn for her wedding, she was the most beautiful human being I'd ever seen. Her new husband was sitting at the other end of the car, she explained, because they were having their first argument: she feared his parents would not approve of their marriage because he was white and she was not. "What are you?" I blurted, and her answer only further bewildered me, because I had never heard of the Lumbees.
She enlightened me. For the next hour she told me about her people, and about the central figures in their history, Rhoda Strong and Henry Berry Lowrie. And I was hooked. I promised myself that one day I would write about Henry and Rhoda, but I had no idea that the story would resonate deep in my heart for years, changing my life. I didn't start writing until I was thirty-three, and even then I wrote other novels first, unsure how best to tell Rhoda's story. When at last I worked up my courage, I decided to ground each scene and character in historical fact whenever possible, and then build the fiction with additional imagined details and dialogue. All but a handful of the characters retain their real names.
You vividly convey the daily life of the nineteenth century—the details about the food, dress, and tools. What kind of research did you do?
I read two excellent histories—The Only Land I Know by Adolph Dial and David Eliades, and To Die Game by William McKee Evans—but I also read more widely and wildly in order to become as familiar as I could with the fabric of Rhoda's life. I needed to know about North Carolina during and after the Civil War, about turpentine and scuppernongs and bees. I found old letters particularly helpful in shaping the language of Rhoda's narrative; I used maps, paintings, prints, government records, and oral history projects. Newspapers of the time followed the Lowrie War closely. One reporter from the New York Herald actually interviewed Rhoda and described the interior of her cabin, including the Currier print hanging on her wall. I tracked that print down and bought my own copy of it to hang on my office wall while I wrote. As for food—I got my knowledge of Lumbee cooking by indulging myself time and again at Fuller's Restaurant and at Sally Locklear's house. Sally is a great cook, and she's also Henderson Oxendine's great-granddaughter. In fact, I was fortunate enough to meet the descendants of several of the book's characters, all magically powerful connections that gave me a sense of history's living presence in our lives.
Rhoda is a very powerful figure as is Cee. Were you making a comment about Lumbee women in particular, or about American women in general?
The Lumbee women I know possess a striking dignity and an inner strength combined with grace, wit, and generosity. While I was writing about Cee and Rhoda, I was thinking not only of the bride I had met on the train but also of Louise, Malinda, Sally, Cherry, Cindy, Johanna, and Aunt Jessie—Lumbee women, American women.
Why did you choose to have Rhoda tell her tale in retrospect rather than as circumstances unfolded?
I am not sure I ever made that choice consciously. It simply seemed fitting at the time. For one thing, Rhoda actually lived on for many years, more than three decades after Henry was gone. Naturally she would have spent a great deal of time remembering the dramatic events of her youth and pondering their significance. Wisdom comes with the passage of time. I wanted to discover how she might have understood and interpreted her love and her life. The long look back over time is important to us, too, as we re-examine the American past. Henry is a legendary figure now, to be seen in the light of a century's accumulated knowledge.
Do you see the novel as primarily the story of Scuffletown or of Rhoda? When you began the novel, what elements of the plot did you already have resolved?
I meant to suggest, by means of the title, that Scuffletown is a place unlike any other, with flora, fauna, climate, history, and culture unmatched elsewhere—a unique spot of earth. But I could not have entered this place without Rhoda, the individual and singular woman who inhabited it. Curiously, once I had connected with her, and through her to others, I began to understand the book's title with some degree of irony. Maybe Scuffletown is a place like no other, but at the same time the opposite is true. It is like all others. One part of the ending was unresolved until the very moment of its writing. I had collected various theories as to Henry's fate. Many Lumbees believe that Henry escaped to another state, and some even report that he was sighted several times, coming back to see Rhoda. Others think he accidentally shot himself and was secretly buried by his family in a spot that will never be revealed.
I wasn't sure all along what I would write, but when the time came, I looked at all the evidence and reached a conclusion that I felt absolutely sure was the right one. I am still sure of it.
The novel serves as a cautionary tale about segregation and prejudice in the time of the Civil War. Do you think there are parallels between the Lumbees' situation and contemporary issues?
If there were no parallels between the past and the present, history would hardly interest us. Scuffletown thrives today, as the town of Pembroke, North Carolina, west of I-95 near Lumberton. Indians have significant power in county government, courts, school boards, and law enforcement. The current Miss North Carolina is a Lumbee. Among all Native American groups the Lumbees have the highest percentage of lawyers, doctors, and teachers. But prejudice dies hard, and enmities smolder. The effects of past injustice and segregation often linger longer than we might suspect.
Your other novels, Dreams of Sleep, The Fireman's Fair, and Rich in Love, are all set in contemporary times. What was different about writing a historical novel? Which did you enjoy writing most?
I knew that Nowhere Else on Earth would be unlike my earlier works. For those contemporary novels, I used my own world as backdrop. Research was unnecessary, because of course I was familiar with every aspect of that world and could call it up automatically. But for the historical novel, I needed to learn another world, and I needed to learn it intimately. Often I decided not to take notes on my research, hoping that the material would simply soak in and then later bubble up as quickly and as easily as if it were my own. Perhaps the most intriguing part of writing this book was, I discovered, the emergence in my mind of a new and different ethics of fiction. At every stage of work there arose crucial choices to be made, questions I'd never had to consider in the contemporary novel. How could I create fiction that remained loyal to truth? How much imaginative reconstruction could I do without misrepresenting the dead?
What's a typical day of writing like for you? What are you working on now?
I love to get up early in the morning—the earlier the better—and go directly to my office in the Confederate Home, once the refuge of Civil War widows, now a residence for women as well as studio space for writers and artists. When I'm being good, I write hard all day every day, and the intensity of the work creates an energy that keeps the fiction rolling. In a different mode, I might write a sentence, look out the window and daydream for several hours, then go home and work in the vegetable garden. I have started two new books, one set in the past and one in the present. Both are waiting, and I will soon have to choose.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I have read but a few historical fiction works that have propelled me in time and space to another world, but Nowhere Else on Earth grabbed hold of me, shook me and launched me into Civil War North Carolina. This is the kind of book that writers read for inspiration. From the inside jacket where a huge family tree depicts the lines of all the families in Scuffletown, North Carolina--the Lowries and the Oxendines--to the last page of the epilogue where the aftermath of the heroic tale is laid bare, this book took my breath away. I simply could not put it down. It is a huge creation.
In 1864 Scuffletown, many mixed-breed descendants of the native Lumbee Indian Tribe laboriously toil at the turpentine business. The group is extremely poor but work hard to help their families survive. Living nearby is wealthy and powerful Scottish plantation owners who still own black slaves. As the Civil War winds down, the residents of Scuffletown struggle with the Home Guard that conscripts their young males into building for the Confederacy. The Union soldiers are as ugly to town residents. The townsfolk want the war to go away so they can move on with their lives. For defying the Confederacy, local citizen Henry Lowrie and some other men hide in the nearby swamps to escape his fellow Carolinians wrath. Eventually, Henry turns to robbery to survive and ultimately is accused of murder. As Henry makes love with teenager Rhoda Strong, his gentle father is hung as retribution for Henry's actions. He seeks revenge, but finds time to marry his beloved Rhoda before fleeing from the area during Reconstruction. NOWHERE ELSE ON EARTH is an incredible accomplishment that showcases the talent of Josephine Humphreys. Rhoda narrates the story line as she looks back over the years to the havoc caused by the Civil War and the Reconstruction on her indigent people. The characters are fully developed especially the interrelationships in which race rules even amidst the Northern Army. The insightful plot provides a unique look at the Civil War that allows readers to grasp the torment yet valor of a small group under siege from all sides. Ms. Humphreys uses historical facts to bring to life a People during an era when the rights of a small minority are trampled. Harriet Klausner