Book Review: Whither Thou Goest (The Graham Saga, Book #7) by Anna Belfrage.
Whither Thou Goest
(The Graham Saga, Book #7)
By Anna Belfrage
Whither Thou Goest is the seventh book in Anna Belfrage’s series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham. In their rural home in the Colony of Maryland, Matthew and Alex Graham are still recovering from the awful events of the previous years when Luke Graham, Matthew’s estranged brother, asks them for a favour. Alex has no problems whatsoever ignoring Luke’s sad plea for help. In her opinion Matthew’s brother is an evil excuse of a man who deserves whatever nasty stuff fate throws at him. Except, as Matthew points out, Luke is begging them to save his son – his misled Charlie, one of the Monmouth rebels – and can Charlie Graham be held responsible for his father’s ill deeds? So off they go on yet another adventure, this time to the West Indies to find a young man neither of them knows but who faces imminent death on a sugar plantation, condemned to slavery for treason. The journey is hazardous and along the way Alex comes face to face with a most disturbing ghost from her previous life, a man she would much have preferred never to have met. Time is running out for Charlie Graham, Matthew is haunted by reawakened memories of his days as an indentured servant, and then there’s the eerie Mr Brown, Charlie’s new owner, who will do anything to keep his secrets safe, anything at all. Will Matthew deliver his nephew from imminent death? And will they ever make it back home?
“You don't have to do this. You don’t owe Luke anything. That brother of yours has cost you dearly. Years in prison, further years of slavery, constant persecution back in Scotland…”
Alex was right. Matthew did not owe Luke anything. But Jacob had been Charles' friend, and if he were alive, then he would not hesitate to get on a ship and sail to Charles' aid. So it falls to Matthew, Jacob's father, to go in his son's place and rescue his nephew. Alex is determined to go with her husband. For whither her husband goest, she too will go.
But life as an indentured servant is cruel, harsh and without humanity. Time is most definitely not on Matthew's and Alex’s side.
From the death of an enemy to the birth of a longed-for child, Whither Thou Goest (The Graham Saga, Book #7) by Anna Belfrage is an emotionally charged and powerful story that will instantly transport you back in time to the 17th Century.
Oh, how I love this series. This saga sends tingles down my spine, and each book is an absolute joy from start to finish. I have to admit, that every time I pick up a book in The Graham Saga I cannot help but fear that the author is going to run out of momentum, that the story is going to fall flat because to keep up this level of engagement, to continue with a story that covers decades and two very different timelines is incredibly challenging. But each time, Belfrage nails it. Each time she delivers. Whither Thou Goest may well be my favourite book in The Graham Saga yet.
I have spoken at length about Alex and Matthew's portrayal in previous reviews and their relationship continues to fascinate in this novel. The title of this book is very appropriate. Ruth 1:16, is one of my favourite passages in the Bible, for it speaks of unquenchable love and unquestionable loyalty. It really does sum up Alex and Matthew — they are two souls who no matter what befalls them will be forever joined. It is a love larger than life, more potent than death even. Their love is not fanciful — it is not too good to be true — it is very real in the telling, very vivid. With each book, I fall more and more in love with them.
I want to come away from Alex and Matthew and have a look at a few of the secondary characters that help to make this story so very addictive. I want to start with Samuel or White Bear as his Indian father knows him by. Samuel is Alex and Matthew's thirteen-year-old son who went to live with the Indians for a year and now he does not know where he belongs. He lives with Qaachow's tribe, and he loves his Indian family dearly, but at the same time, he wants the comforts of his mother's arms. I adored Samuel, he is such a brave and compassionate young man and to be so conflicted really did pull at my heartstrings. I thought his depiction was absolutely brilliant, and I am looking forward to reading more about him in the upcoming books.
The other character I want to talk about is Michael Connor. Michael is a new character, introduced into this story, and he has the misfortune of being related to the Burleys, who are the vilest creature ever to walk the earth. However, Michael is nothing like them in the sense that he knows right from wrong, he recognises injustice, and he is wise enough to read between the lines. His act of heroism was in itself a reason for any reader to like him, but he continued to surprise me throughout this book, and he grew into a character that was the epitome of romance and chivalry. He became a happy ending for a character that was in dire need of one. I adored Michael. His struggles to become a better man than his uncles, and his determination to turn towards love instead of giving into hate made him all the more heroic.
Belfrage first introduced her readers to the absolute horrors of slavery and indentured servitude in Like Chaff in the Wind (The Graham Saga Book #2), but she has revisited the vile practice in this novel. Through young Charles Graham, we experience the brutal physical and psychological domination of a young man who so happened to be on Monmouth's side during the ill-fated Rebellion of 1685. Charles, a once proud young man, is subjected to unimaginable suffering. After witnessing his best friend suffer a traitor's death, Charles finds himself on a ship sailing to the West Indies, his sentence, one of life as an indentured servant — but that was only the beginning of his torturous journey. Charles' depiction brought tears to my eyes. His plight is insufferable, and unlike Matthew, who once found himself in the same desperate situation, Charles' sprit was broken before he even reached the plantation. He isn’t defiant. He accepts the way life is with an almost resigned understanding that this is where he will die. He becomes a slave's slave. His situation is heartbreaking. Indentured servitude in history is always eclipsed by the brutality of the African slave trade, but it was as cruel, and many white men were sent to these far off places to die. Hanging would have been merciful compared to the hell many of these men suffered. Belfrage does not shy away from the abject misery, and the appalling treatment that these men, women and children faced on a daily basis. Beating, sexual abuse, starvation, a complete disregard for humanity, Belfrage has captured it in prose in all of its ugliness. Belfrage also asks her readers to think about the morality, in a historical setting, of one person owning another human being. The slave owners look at these people as stock — they dehumanise them and seemingly delight in their misery. Mr Sassafras Brown is the very essence of immorality, and yet he puts on airs of civilisation and thinks himself better than the unfortunate beasts that are dying for him out in his fields of sugar. He is a vile man who does not see that what he is doing is so fundamentally wrong. Charles' story is very humbling, and one that I will never forget.
Graham's Garden — the Graham's homestead in the Colony of Maryland is a symbol of freedom and peace, and despite not being immune to the evil inherent of humanity, it remains a sanctuary of sorts for the Graham's clan. It has become their home in all sense of the word, not only for the Grahams but also strangely for me as well. I have walked the floors of the homestead with the Grahams and their family, I have celebrated in their successes and commiserate with their losses. This book, this setting, is now so achingly familiar that I could almost imagine myself there, that I lived and am living this life with them. Not many authors can connect with their readers at such an emotional level, but Belfrage can.
Whither Thou Goest (The Graham Saga, Book #7) by Anna Belfrage is a historical triumph. I cannot praise this series enough. It is absolutely superb, and I cannot wait to get my hands on Book #8.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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Whither Thou Goest
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a time-traveller. As this was impossible, she became a financial professional with two absorbing interests: history and writing. Anna has authored the acclaimed time travelling series The Graham Saga, set in 17th century Scotland and Maryland, as well as the equally acclaimed medieval series The King’s Greatest Enemy which is set in 14th century England. She has recently released the first in a new series, The Wanderer. This time, she steps out of her normal historical context and A Torch in His Heart is with a fast-paced contemporary romantic suspense with paranormal and time-slip ingredients.