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Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite
Murcheson County by Rodney Page takes the reader back to the dark days of America’s South when the frontier hinterlands of Georgia were first being opened up for settlement and farming, all on the backs of the Negro slaves. Maureen Salter is reflecting back on three generations of Salters and Underwoods farming this unforgiving territory. When Ezekial Salter scrimps and saves to buy a ticket in the land lottery of 1807, little does he realize he is taking the first steps in a dynasty that will farm this land, through hell and high water, for years to come. This all-encompassing nineteenth-century tale covers the economic powerhouse that was the South, through the arguments for abolition and the bloody, destructive Civil War that ripped the South to shreds and ultimately left the slaves with their freedom but little idea what to do with it. Through all the trials and tribulations thrown at her over the years, Maureen Salter had stood firm and proud, not prepared to bow to crooks, thieves, politicians, generals or indeed any man. She is the epitome of our picture of the proud and resourceful pioneer woman who always “makes do” no matter what trials she may face.
I found Murcheson County to be an absolutely compelling book. There are not many stories that can grab me as a reader and keep me reading even when I know there are other things I should be doing – this was such a book. Author Rodney Page has gathered a strong and extensive list of characters that rang true to the time period and the South, in particular. I particularly liked the fact that the author used the characters to argue the case for and against abolition – it is easy to forget why slavery, abhorrent as it was, was something the rich planters of the South felt they had to fight and secede from the Union for. I also appreciated that the author was at pains to point out that most of those who went to fight for the Confederacy were not supporting slavery per se, in fact, the vast majority were against it; they went to fight for their homes and their land. The horror and angst of the Civil War was another area the author covered wonderfully well and I appreciated the research and knowledge of the battles and the various units that made up the Confederate and Union Armies. Ultimately, though, this book is about family, love and what is right. For someone who enjoys historical fiction, as I do, this is an enthralling read and one I can highly recommend.