Friday, May 6, 2016
Free Men by Katy Simpson Smith
Three men come together in 1788 in the rural country of what would become the state of Alabama. Bob is a slave who has decided in his thirties that there must be something more and has decided to run away and make another life out in the Western territories. Istillicha, a Creek Indian, has been ousted from his tribe and what everyone expected would be his place of leadership. His woman and his silver have both been stolen from him. Cat is a young white man who seems lost most days. He has spent his life trying to fit in and find someone to love him to little avail.
Brought together by chance, the three men travel together to help each other. Everything changes when they encounter a group of men on the roadway. The three are worried that the men might take back tales of seeing them; each of them wanted elsewhere for various reasons. Even more damning, the men have sacks full of silver coins that clatter and clang and give their location away. That night, the three men creep into the camping place of the group and start to steal the money. When the men awake and give fight, things escalate until all are dead and the three men are now wanted for murder.
Le Clere is a tracker. He has come to America from France to learn about what makes men do the things they do. He is hired by the Creek chief of Istillicha's tribe to find him. He quickly picks up the men's trail and finds himself following them rather than capturing them. He is fascinated by the makeshift friendships and commonality that seems to bind the three men, unknown to each other a week ago, together in common purpose.
Katy Simpson Smith has a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her devotion to research and to portraying the average individuals that settled America is on full display in this novel as she explores the nature of freedom, friendship and hope in desperate situations. This book is recommended for readers of historical and literary fiction.