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Reviewed by Paul F. Murray for Readers' Favorite
Prairie Points by Jan Frazier is a thoroughly likeable and, dare I say, educational novel that is a cross between pure historical fiction and a family’s history. The novel centers on the author’s great-grandmother, Elizabeth Dully, and her two sisters, Anna and Maria, along with older brother Michael. The Dully family has arrived in America from Germany just a year or two prior to the start of the Civil War (1861-1865). The Dullys take note of the socio-political situation in their new country very quickly, after having settled in Tazewell County, Illinois. The family takes an active role in providing shelter to black slaves trying to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
The novel is an informative description of the dangers which abolitionists faced, even in a northern state, providing shelter to blacks from slave-hunters out to recapture runaways, either for the reward or from racist conviction, or both. There is an engaging subplot as well, as even indentured servants of white people sometimes had to flee from their masters. (Sex trafficking was not a 20th century invention.) Christoph and Michael Dully also decide to join the Union Army to help save the country, and end up paying a price. The novel provides a picture of what life was like on the “home front” in the United States during the Civil War.
Prairie Points by Jan Frazier is a thrilling novel about a portion of American history that is too often neglected. There was heavy immigration from Europe to the United States during the 1840s and 1850s, and how, exactly, did these new immigrants from foreign countries adapt to their new country at war? The description of the quilts that Elizabeth and her sisters made at the end of the novel, based upon code messages, is a heartwarming conclusion, with the quilts meant to be gifts to their children, and to their children’s children.