This very complex story intertwines 2 stories: one story of a slave, Josephine (the “house girl”), who is seeking escape in the years just before the Civil War, and the second the story of Carolina, a young lawyer in NYC today who is working on a case seeking restitution for slavery. They come together because Josephine was also an artist, who assisted her owner in paintings that would later be acknowledged as sophisticated works of art for which only her owner received credit. As Carolina uncovers Josephine’s story, she also learns a great deal about herself and her own history.
While this story is engaging and important in its details, it is somewhat lacking in depth and character development. The reader definitely feels a sympathy for both of them, but there is a lack of real personality to both of the main characters. They each have little to say in spite of the complexity of their respective situations. (The one character that really has “heart” is one who is revealed late in the book via a letter he writes telling the final story. This is, in my opinion, the best part of the book!) I think it is here where this book falls slightly short.
It is a worthwhile read, though, for the historical perspective and for the questions of right and wrong which this story raises. I’d love to hear what others think…!