Desert Isle Keeper
A Hope Divided
In A Hope Divided, we meet Marlie Lynch – a spy for the Union living in North Carolina – and Ewan McCall, an escaped prisoner with a dark past. They’re both brilliant, strong, resilient, and willing to do whatever it takes to stop the Confederacy from winning the war. As they have to flee Marlie’s home and follow the path of the Underground Railroad in order to escape the reach of the vicious Confederate Home Guard, they begin to peel away each other’s layers and learn what it means to trust someone else in lives conditioned against it.
There are pieces of this story I want to describe and analyze in great detail, but to do so would steal much of its power. Ms. Cole layers disclosures to us as much as she layers them to Ewan and Marlie, making this book like a puzzle box. We know some things about each of them quickly – they both love to read, Marlie is a free black woman living in the Confederacy, Ewan is Scottish, they meet when Marlie delivers books to the prison camp where Ewan is being held – but we get to know them slowly as the novel progresses. Their motivations, their stories, why they make the choices they make… By the time the story really gets into motion, Ms. Cole has pulled readers so far deep into the puzzle of these people that there is no hope of putting the book down.
The basic plot outline is that Marlie, who serves as a lynchpin of resistance in her corner of the world, decodes spy intercepts, creates medicinal concoctions for Union prisoners and offers quiet but steadfast aid to escaping slaves and traveling free persons. Living on the top floor of her family home, Marlie is mixed-race and her sister, Sarah, is the manor’s white mistress. Well, she is until her brother arrives home with his shrew of a wife who is a total Confederate groupie. It is thanks to the wife that trouble surrounds Marlie and threatens to suffocate her emotionally and harm her physically. Even without addition of Ewan and his story, I would have read this book every day of the week – Marlie is in the running for my favorite story of coming into one’s own this year.
As for Ewan, we met his brother as the hero of An Extraordinary Union and I was glad we got to explore more of the immigrant experience in this installment of the series. Ewan escapes from prison and we learn he was an enforcer in the army – someone who tortures people for information, who makes sure that he can disconnect from other people’s humanity in order to protect the humanity of others. This is at the core of his internal struggle, and is, I think, one of the reasons he falls so hard and so fast for Marlie. She has a quiet strength about her, an assurance of her role in the fight that Ewan himself doesn’t have.
As I said above, I could wax lyrical about this book, but I truly want you to experience it for yourselves and don’t want to give away any spoilers. If you are a fan of historical romance and have any desire to read one that doesn’t involve dukes and ballrooms, I’d ask you to give A Hope Divided a shot. Let Ms. Cole weave these people around you – they are worth your time, attention, and care.
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