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Chasing the North Star    by Robert Morgan order for
Chasing the North Star
by Robert Morgan
Order:  USA  Can
Algonquin, 2016 (2016)
Hardcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Robert Morgan's Chasing the North Star is the story of Jonah Williams, born into slavery on a South Carolina plantation. He was misjudged and flogged by his owner, whose wife secretly taught him to read, her 'greatest gift to him.' Fearing that he would be forever viewed as a thief, Jonah fled north on his eighteenth birthday, in 1850.

Though this might sound like a story told before, the details that Morgan injects into it are new, captivating, and lyrically written. Jonah himself is a very credible character, who starts with a half formed plan, but is often uncertain of his course of action. And then there is Angel, the intriguing young slave woman, who later decides to join him on his journey north, though their paths often diverge before crossing once more.

There are many captures, escapes, betrayals and close shaves. Jonah steals and is stolen from. He's exploited by many who know he's a fugitive. And he meets Angel at a forbidden slave jubilee, where she notices him staring 'like he'd seen the devil coming out of hell with his pitchfork.' There's something about him that Angel ('Tired of being a feet warmer' for her old master) rather likes.

Despite his discouragement and even outright rejection, Angel follows Jonah (whose reading of newspapers gave him a good sense of where to head) north. They even manage to help each other from time to time. Chasing the North Star is an exciting and engrossing story as we wonder, will either or both of these adventurers make it, and will clever Jonah ever really connect with the much more mature, wise Angel? Highly recommended.

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