four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
16-May-June-2005
By: 
Nancy Rawles
user_rating: 
0

A-MyJimSadie, a former slave, is upset because her granddaughter Marianne in Louisiana is scared to leave home and start a life with a buffalo solider out West. As the two women weave a quilt together, Sadie speaks for the first time about her own tragic past. Through all her trials, she never lost her consuming love for Jim, her husband and runaway slave. Jim escaped down the Mississippi River with a white boy named Huck. But this is Sadie’s story, told in her rich Southern dialect.
Crown. 176 pages. $19.95. ISBN: 1400054001

Christian Science Monitor 4 of 5 Stars
"In her perfectly artless manner, Sadie moves through a love story that’s horrible and harrowing, but somehow she arrives at an affirmation earned with her own blood." Ron Charles

Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"Rawles’s experience as a playwright is much in evidence. The story is all dialogue—and all dialect—and readers must adjust to the absence of quotation marks and most other punctuation." Dan Dyer

Orlando Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"What Rawles (part Creole herself) has done is fill in more of the humanity between the lines of Twain’s slave life, simply and affectingly summoning up the horrors of the institution and the spirits that either endured it or were broken by it." Roger Moore

Seattle Post-Intelligencer 4 of 5 Stars
"Rawles gives masterful witness to a slave’s dreadful life, detail by detail, in the tumultuous period leading up to the Civil War and then in the strange Reconstruction period afterward. … My Jim speaks forceful truth." John Marshall

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The pathological cruelty, the grueling work, the emotional deprivation, the physical and sexual abuse, and the utter rejection of basic human rights—these factors emphatically preclude a rosy conclusion to Jim and Sadie’s love story. … [Rawles] creates important new dimensions to a classic American story, but they are not easy to face."
Barbara Lloyd McMichael

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
"This novel takes its inspiration from Huck Finn but does not wholly depend on it. … Still, it’s hard not to wonder if it is the brush with Twain and Finn that gives Sadie’s story its jolt of vitality." Helen Schulman

Critical Summary

Although Mark Twain never mentioned Jim’s wife by name in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, award-winning playwright and novelist Rawles gives Sadie a tale "as heart-wrenching a personal history as any recorded in American literature" (New York Times). Here, the subtext of slavery that lingers behind Twain’s classic is given full due, and it is appalling in its near unspeakable details about slave life. Critics were universally moved by Sadie’s short story, and praise the author’s pitch-perfect tribute to Twain’s original Jim. It makes a great supplement to high school reading lists.