Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Apalachicola Gold is an historical fiction novel written by Michael A. Kinnett. Kinnett was instrumental in the creation and is an ongoing curator of the Orman House Historic State Park Museum in the historic city of Apalachicola in the Florida panhandle. While Apalachicola Gold is the second book in the Pearl saga, it can be read and enjoyed on its own. Baptized LaRaela Retsyo Agnusdei, Pearl would swear that she remembered seeing her mother's face in the moments before she passed after having given birth to her daughter. Pearl was never quite sure in what year she was born; her father hated her for having been the proximate cause of her mother's death and had refused to even give her his name, leaving her a bastard in the eyes of the law. He was a drayman by trade, and together, the father and daughter traveled along the coasts from New Orleans to Pensacola and up into Georgia. He was known simply as Dray, rather than his given name of Guillaume Gauthier Verheist, and his propensity for violence and cruelty was a thing well known to his daughter, as well as to those who had the misfortune to come in contact with him. For a short while, they stayed with Pearl's Aunt Zetta and her two cousins, but that was an unpleasant and frightening experience for the young child. In all their travels, one city stood out in Pearl's mind as the place she loved the best, a home for the virtual orphan who was, for the most part, homeless. Apalachicola was the place that drew her in most strongly.
Michael A. Kinnett's historical fiction novel, Apalachicola Gold, reads beautifully. This fictional journal of a young girl who somehow manages to survive the toxic hatred her father has for her is uplifting and inspirational. I loved imagining how that four-year-old made her way to the city of Apalachicola and found those people who would so change her life: Miss Charity, Miss Caroline, and Basher, the innkeeper where Dray drank, gambled and fought, and his daughter, Bella. Kinnett gives the reader a real sense of the tropical nature of that part of the Florida panhandle and the perils facing those early inhabitants, especially the yellow fever. He also uses his characters to give readers a fuller sense of the everyday interactions of the inhabitants of the city and the impact that slavery and the Civil War had on the area. The genesis of Pearl's friendship with Old Hickory, the giant alligator, is an unforgettable scene in which the small girl masters her fear to help a fearsome and powerful reptile. Apalachicola Gold is a fascinating historical fiction journal that kept me involved in Pearl's story and has given me new insights into and an understanding of the history of that part of the South. It's most highly recommended.