"Splendida distinctive clear-eyed perspective on a fresh corner of the Civil War." Charles Frazier, New York Times bestselling author of Cold Mountain
"A wise and timely book." Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena
Rooted in the history of the only secessionist town north of the Mason Dixon Line, Daren Wang's The Hidden Light of Northern Fires tells a story of redemption amidst a war that tore families and the country apart.
Mary Willis has always been an outcast, an abolitionist in a town of bounty hunters and anti-Union farmers. After college, she dreams of exploring the country, but is obligated to take over the household duties and management of her family’s farm, while her brother Leander avoids his own responsibilities. Helping runaways is the only thing that makes her life in Town Line bearable.
When escaped slave Joe Bell collapses in her father’s barn, Mary is determined to help him cross to freedom in nearby Canada. But the wounded fugitive is haunted by his vengeful owner, who relentlessly hunts him up and down the country, and his sister, still trapped as a slave in the South.
As the countryside is riled by the drumbeat of civil war, rebels and soldiers from both sides bring intrigue and violence of the brutal war to the town and the farm, and threaten to destroy all that Mary loves.
|Product dimensions:||5.30(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
DAREN WANG is the Founding Executive Director of the Decatur Book Festival. Before launching the festival, he had a twenty-year career in public radio, both national and local. Wang has written for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Paste Magazine, Five Points magazine, among others. The Hidden Light of Northern Fires is his first novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"The Hidden Light of Northern Fires" is a historical fiction that follows several characters, centering around Mary Willis, a college-educated spinster (at 23 years old) who is an abolitionist in the only town to secede from the Union during the Civil War above the Mason-Dixon Line. She also runs a stop on the Underground Railroad at great personal risk. The other main character is Joe Bell, a slave which is running until he arrives at Mary's, when she offers him a job. The book felt a little sparse with almost too many characters, following people on every side of the war, soldiers, slaves, slave owners, Northerners, and Southerners. I wished it would have settled with Mary/Joe and followed them a little more in-depth. Additionally, while much of it is well-researched, there are other things that I wasn't so confident about in terms of the Civil War era. However, it is fiction, so it can all be taken with a grain of salt. I was pretty excited to get into this one due to the historical context and being based on real scenarios, but I would have preferred something more in-depth, maybe with the use of the actual historical documents threaded within. However, it was still an interesting story, and I liked it overall. Please note that I received a copy through a goodreads giveaway. All opinions are my own.
A fascinating story about the history of Town Line, New York's and its Secession from the Union during the Civil War Mary Willis has never been able to settle to the idea of staying home and handling the family farm. A staunch abolitionist and a rare female college graduate within her town, she enjoys arguing against the institution of slavery and longs to escape her rural circle to be a part of something larger. Upon returning to her alma mater in search of a job, Mary stumbles upon a stop in the Underground Railroad, run by one of her professors. Eager to play a part, Mary volunteers to accompany the runaways to their next stop and soon begins opening her family’s farm to other runaways. It is through this that she meets Joe, a slave forced to run and leave his sister behind. No stranger to suffering, Joe collapses in Mary’s barn with a badly injured leg from a dog that a sympathetic doctor is forced to amputate to save him. While he remains hidden on her farm recovering, Joe and Mary strike up a friendship that will change the course of both their lives. Set in the powder keg of a village, Town Line, New York, which declared its secession from the Union during the Civil War, The Hidden Light of Northern Fires explores a lesser known area of history through a real-life historical person whose diaries author Daren Wang came across in his childhood home. Written with refreshingly direct prose, Wang engenders an instant attachment between the reader and the characters of Joe and Mary Willis that make the twists and turns of their lives all the more heartrending for their struggles. The forces they battle against are depicted through villains who rarely redeem themselves and the distinct line between the protagonists and antagonists is reminiscent of Dickens. Before opening this book I had never heard that anywhere in the north had chosen to secede during the Civil War and found the forces at work within it by Confederate spies fascinating and beautifully detailed by Wang. It is interesting just how divided our country was in that it was not as simple as north vs south, but with further divisions within families and secessions within the so-called Union itself. Wang shines an unflinching light on the ugliness and the humanity that co-existed at the time and creates a story and characters that will linger long after the final pages. A poignantly beautiful story. Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
CIVIL WAR - 1861-1865 $1000 REWARD. Joe Bell is a fugitive slave on the run....he didn't want to run....he didn't want to leave sister Alaura behind at Walnut Grove Plantation....but he had no choice....and Yates Bell wants him DEAD. Mary Willis is a 23 year old university-educated strong-willed spinster who is bored with farm life....AND the local boys in Town Line, New York, but she soon finds purpose to her daily routine....a secret and dangerous new endeavor....helping runaway slaves. (no spoiler here). Father Nathan wears the pants in the family....runs the farm and the mill....a big man in the town he founded, and Brother Leander....well, he just wants to hang with his friends and get off the farm to give big city life a go. THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF NORTHERN FIRES is a work of historical fiction mixed with facts from the past during a time of great upheaval in America, and Daren Wang's memory, creativity and research behind an old forgotten diary in his childhood home....the Willis home....brings to life this amazing story. A fine debut.....but oh I wanted MORE!
It is 1859, and after graduating from college, Mary is an abolitionist. She begins to work with the Underground Railroad and hides a runaway named who fled because of his good master's son. At the same time, the Civil War is raging. This is a wonderfully rich and complex novel about the anguish of slavery and the tragedies of war. Compelling make this novel so real and believable. There are plenty of subplots and twists that made this a real page turner. I was utterly fascinated with this tale from start to finish! I highly this decadent story to all lovers of historical fiction.
I received a free electronic copy of this historical novel from Netgalley, Daren Wang, and St. Martin's Press - Thomas Dunn Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. This is an excellent Civil War historical novel, told from a very unique viewpoint. Daren Wang tells his story from the perspective of a farmer's daughter from Town Line in upstate New York, a slave fleeing his home and family near Harper's Ferry, and an escaped boy from the orphan train traveling through upper New York on it's way to drop him off in Cincinnati. There are of course many other protagonists, but these three carry the tale and tell it very well from 1861 through the assassination of President Lincoln. This is a book I will cherish, happily recommend and want to read again.
A recent college graduate, twenty-three years old and considered a spinster, Mary Willis returns to her family home in the hamlet of Town Line, New York. Mary is a passionate abolitionist and is secretly helping escaped slaves as they make their way to the safety of Canada. One day she finds a seriously injured escapee collapsed on the floor of the barn. That’s when her life and the lives of those around her are changed forever. Mary is just one of lots of great characters. The plot is predictable, but it still held my interest, and even after it ended, I found myself wanting to know more about what happened to the characters, especially Mary. A love story, yes, but really more a story about family and resilience and doing the right thing. This book falls into the genre of historical fiction. I found my curiosity piqued, so I did some research after I finished reading the book, and found out there really is an Alfred University near Buffalo founded in 1836 that was co-ed, a rarity for the time. Town Line is also a real town, settled by Germans, and they did indeed vote to secede from the Union in 1861.