One of the things I enjoy about historical fiction is the opportunity to learn while enjoying a good story. Did you know that in the pre-Civil War South, older slaves worked in the plantation’s loom room? Because they were too worn out for physical labor, they spent their days weaving, creating clothing and other necessary fabrics. In The Loom author Shella Gillus tells the story of Lydia, a light-skinned house slave. Lydia has her family nearby and a loving husband, but her greatest desire is freedom, and she is willing to do anything to attain it.
The slaves and the plantation’s family are tied together in more ways than just the master-slave relationship (as was often the case). As slaves and owners deal with demons from the past, tensions on the plantation reach a boiling point. Lydia depends on the wise slaves in the loom room for guidance and support, but the pain and frustrations seem more than she is able to bear. Lydia leaves everything she knows to chase freedom. With her light skin, she is able to pass as a white woman, and she uses this to her advantage. When she agrees to marry a neighboring plantation owner, her deception leads to a series of problems, causing her to risk her own life and the lives of those she loves.
Although I thought that some parts of this story were poorly developed and tenuous, the subject matter and the relationships between the characters were fascinating to me. Whether the characters were black or white, the relationships they developed and the choices they made led to an interesting look at slavery and the many issues surrounding it. Additionally, Lydia’s pursuit of her greatest desire and her deceitful actions opened the door to potential disaster. Isn’t it true that we often think we want something until we get it?
The Loom is a fast-paced novel, and a fine debut from Shella Gillus. While I did think some parts of the plot were underdeveloped, I enjoyed the novel, and I look forward to more works by this new author.
Lauren is a wife, mother of two, and an avid reader. She thanks Summerside Press for the review copy of this book. Lauren blogs at Baseballs and Bows.