Lori Bentons wrenching second novel in the Kindred series probes the wounds of the USs racist past to prove that love and God conquer all.
Seona is a former slave who lives in Boston with her son, Gabriel. Gabriels father, Ian, is a capable carpenter who lives in North Carolina, where he pines for Seona and the son he barely knows. Though these relationships are strained, a chance discovery brings Ian into newfound wealth, letting him escape the South and return to Boston. He has a fortuitous meeting with a traveler heading in the same direction, and is invited to a new community, Shiloh, in New York. There, his neighbors love each other despite their differences, and make space to live with Native Americans, too. The relationships he witnesses in Shiloh give Ian hope for a bright future.
Seona is an interesting and complex lead, for whom understanding her heart requires navigating a difficult social system and the demands of her faith. When Ian returns in the role of the broken prodigal son, he finds that his brother despises him, that his father has plans he isnt interested in, and that home is not what he expected. Its left to Seona to decide whetherand howshe fits in Ians new world. Rich Christian allegories and allusions lead the tale throughout, as when Shiloh becomes like a miniature Eden for Ians family. But here, big biblical themes also pair with well-attended, tender moments, as when families share time at home around the fire, and develop strengths as they overcome adversity.
Shiloh is a tender novel that confronts historical racism with a hopeful message about love and redemption.
Benton continues her saga of the Cameron family in this enjoyable follow-up to Mountain Laurel. In the 1790s, Ian Cameron, a plantation owner in North Carolina, freed his light-skinned mixed-race lover, Seona, along with their son and Seonas mother, and sent them to live as free citizens with his family in Boston. When Ians wife dies in childbirth, he frees the rest of his slaves and resolves to court the woman he loves. On his way to Boston, Ian helps out Judge William Cooper, who offers Ian the opportunity to settle in the outskirts of Cooperstown, N.Y. In his short time in Boston, he begins to rebuild his relationship with Seona, but leaves to establish a home in the foothills and convinces Seona and her family to join him. Seona struggles with her newfound freedom and trusting in God now that she has to make decisions for herself. She also worries about how the people of New York will treat her and her illegitimate son. Seonas mother and another former enslaved person teach her that she needs to count her blessings and rely on God. While it can be read as a standalone, readers will want to check out Bentons full series to get the most out of this impeccable work.