Title: Trouble The Water
Author: Rebecca Dwight Bruff
Publication: Published June 4th 2019 by Koehler Books ( Historical Fiction )
Every once in a while a book just pulls at your heart, Rebeca Dwight Bruff has written that story for me in her book Trouble The Water, the story of Robert Smalls. The book is based on a real person but she has woven a realistic picture of his childhood for us in the book.
Robert Smalls’s real-life story is amazing. He was born into slavery and lived as a slave until May of 1862. On that fateful May day Smalls and a crew of slaves, along with their families, tool a cotton steamer that Smalls was a crew member on and slowly navigated it out of Charleston Harbor past two Confederate checkpoints, one being Fort Sumter. Once they were outside of the Confederate waters they raised a white flag and surrendered to the blockading Union fleet, delivering nine men, five women, and three children to freedom. After the war Smalls became one of the first black politicians in the South Carolina Congress, he also made sure that all former slaves and their children were educated.
What Bruff has done was take the story of Robert Smalls and brought his early years to life in her Historical Fiction. Her writing is beautiful and respectful as she weaves together years of hardship living on a plantation, watching his family and friends be beat for minor offenses, the pain of families being torn apart as slaves were traded to other slave owners. Bruff manages to paint a picture of a life we can only imagine.
The author did a wonderful job of adding in the minor characters that surround and interact with Smalls. From his mother who is a strong woman, determined that her son would somehow have a better life so made sure he spoke proper English like that plantation owners, to Mrs McKee, who is married to the owner of the plantation that Robert and his mother live on. The journal gives us a glimpse of how clueless she is to the sins of slavery, and how she feels that her husband is giving them all a better life than they would live if they were free because they are uneducated and unruly.
Trouble The Water is a book I am glad to read. I love history, and I have read loads on the Civil War, which is an interesting time for America. Most of the fiction I have read, if it concerned the south was the POV of the plantation owner or the family, and there were little regards to the slaves other than in the background.
The book made me cry, it made me hold my breath, and it made me joyful . It is a book of sadness and triumph and it is a book that needs to be read by everyone.
“ With all due respect sir, to live enslaved is not to truly live…”
— Robert Small , Trouble The Water pg 252