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Stand the Storm    by Breena Clarke order for
Stand the Storm
by Breena Clarke
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2008 (2008)
* *   Reviewed by Joan Burton

Life on a plantation was a struggle for the black families in slavery. They were owned by their masters and their fate rested in others' hands. Families were separated and sold like livestock, with no consideration for their well being. Young black girls were raped and beaten and often had children that were never acknowledged. They were never allowed to look into the eyes of a white man while talking. They always spoke with their head down in a submissive manner. They endured long work days doing physical labour in the sweltering heat. Stand the Storm is the story of one family who managed to stay strong through all of this and buy their way to freedom.

Gabriel is born on the Ridley Plantation in rural Maryland to his mother Sewing Annie Coats. Young Gabriel learns his mother's skill of knitting and sewing. Annie's excellent needlework was well known in the area. At ten years of age Gabriel is sold to Abraham Pearl who has a tailor shop in Georgetown. He's taken from Sewing Annie and his sister Ellen, who stays on the plantation. Gabriel does well under the watchful eye of Abraham. Years pass and Abraham sells his shop to Jonathan Ridley. Gabriel is joined once again with his mother, who is brought to the shop to help Gabriel. At this time there is plenty of unrest among the black population and Gabriel manages to negotiate his family's freedom from the Ridleys. Annie and Gabriel work hard at the shop. They convince the Ridleys to add a laundry service to increase business. Unknown to the Ridleys they also assist slaves to find freedom in Canada.

A young woman, Mary, is brought to the shop. She has been beaten and raped by many men aboard a ship. Sewing Annie takes her in and soon she is healing and wants to repay the Coats. After she begins to help in the business, Gabriel and Mary are attracted to one another. With Annie's blessing they are married and the grandchildren start to arrive. There is talk of war and Gabriel takes a job of sewing uniforms. All this is done at night behind locked doors.

Gabriel enlists in the war. He feels it is his duty to fight as a free man. The blacks are encouraged to fight by the white man, hoping the blacks would be cannon fodder and the white man spared. With Gabriel off to war, Mary and Sewing Annie run the shop. Life is hard but the family awaits Gabriel's return. When the war is over Gabriel is a changed man. Just when Annie has her family together again, she must face the worst tragedy of her life. Stand the Storm is the great story of a family who conquered slavery.

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