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The Freedom Maze: a novel [Hardcover]

Delia Sherman

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Book Description

Nov. 22 2011
In 1960, thirteen-year-old Sophie slips through a maze into 19th century Louisiana and finds nothing is as she expected.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 258 pages
  • Publisher: Big Mouth House; 1 edition (Nov. 22 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931520305
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931520300
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 14.3 x 21.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 454 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #480,559 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2011

"Multilayered, compassionate and thought-provoking, a timely read on the sesquicentennial of America’s Civil War."
Kirkus Reviews (*starred review*)

"Sherman has created a finely honed work of art, a novel that deals eloquently with complex and intersecting issues of race, womanhood, class and age. In transporting the reader so fully into another time, The Freedom Maze becomes timeless."
—Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of Moonshine

"A seamless blending of wondrous American myth with harsh American reality, as befits young Sophie's coming-of-age. I think younger readers and adults alike will be completely riveted by her magical journey into her own family's double-edged past."
—N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

"Beautifully imagined and told with satisfyingly matter-of-fact detail: pot liquor and spoon bread, whips and Spanish Moss, corset covers and vévés and bitter, healing herbs. The Freedom Maze is deep, meaningful fun."
—Nisi Shawl, author of Filter House

"Exposes a wide sweep through a narrow aperture, where the arbitrary nature of race and ownership, kindred and love, are illuminated in the harsh seeking glare of an adolescent's coming of age."
—Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

"This book puts the lie to those today making loose political statements about happy, comfortable slave families of that brutal era while telling a strong story that will not let the young reader stop turning pages to see how things will work out for Sophie and her fellow slaves, especially the cook Africa, and house slaves Antigua and Canada. I was mesmerized."
—Jane Yolen, author of The Devil's Arithmetic

"A riveting, fearless, and masterful novel. I loved Sophie completely."
—Nancy Werlin, author of Extraordinary

"A subtle and haunting book that examines what it means to be who we are."
—Holly Black, co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles

"Vividly realized and saturated with feeling."
—Elizabeth Knox, author of DreamHunter

"Elegantly unravels many myths of the antebellum South, highlighting the resistance of the enslaved, and showing how even the kind hearted are corrupted by their exploitation of their fellow human beings."
—Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar

"A story that says what no story has quite said before, and says it perfectly."
—Sarah Smith, author of the Agatha-winning The Other Side of Dark

"A dramatic yet sensitively-written coming-of-age story that succeeds both as classic fantasy and issue-oriented children's literature."
—Chris Moriarty

"Vivid and compelling, The Freedom Maze will transport you completely to another time."
—Sarah Beth Durst

About the Author

Delia Sherman is the author of two middle grade novels, Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen, which was selected for the Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Program. Her short stories for younger readers have appeared in numerous anthologies including The Faery Reel, Firebirds, Troll’s Eye View, Coyote Road, and A Wolf at the Door. She is also the author of a number of novels for adults as well as the co-editor of two Interfictions anthologies, among others. Delia Sherman lives in NYC and is available to give readings, school and library visits, and teach workshops.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.8 out of 5 stars  16 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging YA Historical Fantasy Nov. 13 2011
By Hapa Girl - Published on
I received this e-book via LibraryThing Early Reviewers program which provides free books in exchange for a review.

Ostensibly a Young Adult book, this novel kept me turning pages right until the end. The author does a superb job integrating the various threads of historical fiction and fantasy within a coming of age tale.

The teenaged protagonist, Sophie, was written authentically as naïve, stubborn, and rebellious. The mother/daughter and other family relationships are well defined. Sophie's character matures substantially after her time travel adventures (or, more accurately, her misadventures). The primary and supporting characters are well-drawn and while some border on being stereotypes, the majority are, for the most part, believable.

Initially, the fantasy aspect of the book seemed jarring to me, but then, there would have to be a way to explain Sophie's ability to time travel to her ancestral plantation home and back again. As the story unfolded, my concerns disappeared as Ms. Sherman does an excellent job encapsulating the fantastical elements within the African healing myths and rituals.

At the back of the book, the author states the novel was written over an 18-year period. I applaud her persistence as it has paid off in a provocative novel that somehow manages to pull the reader in as the story progresses. The exhaustive research shines through and the writing never gets in the way of the storyline.

Any book about slavery is necessarily tragic, but Ms. Sherman is able to write an interesting tale without making it too dark for younger readers. I recommend Freedom Maze for readers of any age.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Library Lady Hylary - Excellent combination of history and fantasy. April 4 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on
In 1960 New Orleans, thirteen-year-old Sophie Martineau is struggling to cope with her parents' recent divorce. Her father has moved to New York City, and her former best friend is no longer allowed to socialize with the child of a single mother. To make matters worse, Sophie's mother has decided to send her to Oak Cottage, an old plantation outside of New Orleans, to stay with her grandmother and aunt for the summer. Bored and lonely, Sophie makes a wish to be someone else, and is inadvertently transported back in time to 1860. Having spent several weeks in the sun exploring the bayou of Oak Cottage, Sophie's tanned skin causes her to be mistaken for a slave, and she is immediately put to work in Oak River House, the luxurious home of her ancestors, the Fairchilds. Sophie is used to the racial segregation in the south of 1960, but nothing prepares her for the cruelty and discrimination she experiences as a slave in a pre-Civil War plantation.

Inspired by real life slave narratives and memoirs, veteran author Delia Sherman's The Freedom Maze proves to be a well-written and intriguing novel that is both entertaining and educational. Although the story involves time travel to the 19th century, it begins in the past, over fifty years ago, at the dawn of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Sophie is a complex character, as is her mother, a recently divorced, bitter woman who warns Sophie against associating with "negroes," especially men. As was likely the case with many children during this period of time, Sophie is unsure of exactly why she is supposed to be afraid of African Americans, but takes her mother's word for it, trying hard to be a proper southern lady. Sherman does an excellent job of conveying Sophie's frustration, both with her parents' divorce and her "exile" at the Oak River plantation. The story gets even more layered, however, after Sophie travels back to 1860. The many plantation slaves become to focus of Sophie's new life, as do the ancestors she is forced to serve after they assume she is the light-skinned offspring of a relative and his servant. The author's description of life on the plantation, from vocabulary to daily tasks, is very well done, and gives The Freedom Maze enough historical accuracy to have a strong place in the classroom. Overall, an exceptional novel that can easily be enjoyed by tweens, teens and adults, particularly those with an interest in American history.

I am a big fan of both historical fiction and time travel, so this book was right up my alley. I thought the author did an outstanding job of describing the plantation and life as a slave in 1860. The reader is truly transported into this tumultuous period of time, something that I think would be very valuable for tween or teen readers who are learning about the Civil War or slavery. The author's passion for this era, as well as slave narratives and memoirs, is very evident throughout the novel, and adds that much more to the already exceptional story.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Time travel into a dark past Nov. 15 2011
By Darth Breather - Published on
Sophie's a teenager, coping with summer boredom at her invalid grandmother's home, when she finds a magical creature who can send her back in time... to slavery days.

It's a book that feels authentic in its recreation of life on a sugar plantation - the dangers and oppression, the friendship and caring and magic. All the characters feel real, and it isn't written from a romantic "Gone with the Wind" view of the past. In fact, in some ways, this is the anti-Gone-with-the-Wind.

It's also a story of grace under pressure, and while it confronts a lot of difficult themes, it's not a depressing book. At all. In fact, it's a fast and wonderful read. I'd recommend this book to children - and adults - who are interested in adventure stories or historical fiction.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting time travel adventure! Wonderful writing! Jan. 7 2012
By guy - Published on
Once I ventured into The Freedom Maze, I couldn't put it down. I was totally caught up in Sophie's adventures; interested, amused and amazed until the very end.
I very impressed by the historical research and evocative detail, spun with lovely writing into a miraculous lacework of the pre war South.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Southern Girl's Coming-of-Age Set Across Two Time Periods July 13 2012
By S. Su - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
THE FREEDOM MAZE is an odd and intriguing book, blending two historical periods with mystical elements. At its core, though, this is a traditional coming-of-age story--which actually makes it hard for me to decide how I feel about this book.

In the sweltering summer of 1960, 13-year-old Sophie's newly divorced mother sends her to her family's old plantation to live. Sophie, awkward in her body and struggling to be the graceful lady her family demands her be while she'd rather bury her nose in books, thinks it will be a miserable summer...until she meets a strange creature who ends up sending her back in time to 1860!

Sophie's Fairchild ancestors mistake her as a slave, and at first the work demands are unfamiliar and difficult. But gradually, Sophie learns to manage herself, and better understands her white ancestors as well as her fellow slaves. Still, there's the problem of returning to 1960...

In middle school, I read a book called The Devil's Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, which tells the story of a modern girl who gets thrown back in time to WWII Europe. THE FREEDOM MAZE follows the same storypath. It is clear that Sherman has meticulously done her research on both time periods: the dialogue feels authentic, social beliefs ingrained, and details regarding setting extraordinary. It's hard enough accurately depicting one historical period; Delia Sherman has to make everyone look like underachievers by doing so for two!

All of that is the backdrop, however, for the classic bildungsroman structure of this story. THE FREEDOM MAZE involves slavery and racism and Southern culture, but it's not interested in that so much as it is in Sophie's development from a petulant child to a more independent teenager. And that's where my potential love for this book trips up. Sophie is sympathetic at the beginning of the novel, when she is ordered this way and that by her "Southern belle" mother and grandmother, but when half the book passes and Sophie is still petulant and incompetent, my sympathy for her waned a bit. Of course, it wouldn't be a bildungsroman if Sophie didn't eventually learn, but it was a bit of a struggle for me in the middle to continue to be invested in the well-being of a timid and fretful girl. Think Mary from The Secret Garden, thrust into the pre-Civil War American South.

THE FREEDOM MAZE is not a book for those who like their plots and pacing action-packed and always-running. I put the book down several times out of repetitiveness and Sophie's stagnancy before I began to be invested. And while I'm glad to have finished it, half of a book with a slow plot and fretful main character is still too much for me to like it fully. THE FREEDOM MAZE will be best for patient readers who like their readings challenging, well-researched, and with just a dash of the fantastical.

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