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The Freedom Maze: a novel [Hardcover]

Delia Sherman
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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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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Review

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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5.0 out of 5 stars A book to read more than once June 15 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is a very good read. Written for young adults but is enjoyable for older adults as well. I enjoyed the fantasy aspect of the book.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  17 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 Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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 Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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 Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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 Wow. A fabulous and important read! Feb. 1 2014
By Elizabeth O. Dulemba - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Sophie begins as a spoiled, unfocused 13-year-old and ends as a confident, self-possessed and aware 14-year-old. And the events that lead to her growth are nothing short of amazing. She goes back in time on her family's plantation and is mistaken for a slave. I can't imagine the research that went into this book to transport me, as the reader, to the time and place in a more palpable way than I've ever experienced. It seems with all the slave movies and books I'd have had a stronger sense. But this gave me the 'what it's like to wake up as a slave' experience. What was breakfast? What did you do when you had your period? And of course, what was it like to be somebody else's property. When Sophie returns to her time, I think I was as desperately eager to know what had happened to her new friends as she was. Deeply rewarding and rich, I highly recommend this book to younger readers as well as adults.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Striking historical fantasy with a powerful outlook on slavery, Civil Rights, and equality April 5 2013
By H. Frederick - Published on Amazon.com
The Freedom Maze is one of those beautifully crafted, almost underhanded coming of age stories where it's impossible to observe the changes in one you see every day, until suddenly you're faced with the contrast of who they once were. Sophie is a girl reaching most tentatively that border between being a child and being a young woman. Being pushed most forcibly toward the latter by her quite proper mother, Sophie feels stifled in her own skin (and especially the stockings, not to mention the bra). Wonderfully, it is Sophie's refusal to release her grasp on the childhood notions of adventure and magic that eventually lead her into who she will become.

Delia Sherman completely sucked me in with so many of those things I can't resist-good historical fiction and good time travel among them. A relatively uncomplicated time travel tale, Sophie is thrown from her summer life at the family estate in Louisiana 1960 into life at the family estate (and plantation) in 1860. Both time periods were rife with struggles for Civil Rights; one for freedom, the other for equality. Because Sherman chose to focus the story on Sophie, a privileged white southerner of 1960 who is forced to become a light-skinned slave in 1860, we are afforded this window of opportunity to understand both worlds from an angle I, for one, have never seen. What I loved most about Sophie's development was that her personal perspective on African Americans didn't change so much as her understanding of them as human beings of equal (or greater) worth. She is a young person being brought up to have the perspective of her white southern family, never before realizing that as kind as they may seem, treating one with kindness is not the same as treating them as an equal. What changes are Sophie's perspectives on freedom, respect, dignity, and family, and our understanding as readers of how complex this world and system has been throughout slavery, the Civil Rights movement, and today.

Sophie longs for an adventure, and the creature who sends her back in time certainly gives her one, though not of the type any young person would request. Sophie is forced to redefine her world through the eyes of a slave, and in doing so learns what she is willing to stand up against, and what battles are not worth fighting. She comes into her own as a person and begins to define herself not by her name or her appearance, but by what she can do for those around her. The most striking and unique element of The Freedom Maze as a time travel story was Sophie's gradual sinking into the past-her ability to adapt and acclimate directly related to her ability to remember the future and where she came from.

The Freedom Maze is one of those books that is definitely enhanced by its audio production. The audio includes a wonderful interview with Delia Sherman in which she talks about the historical aspects of her book and the writing process, The Freedom Maze taking her a staggering 18 years and 27 rewrites to complete. She also talked of her role in finding the perfect narrator to portray Sophie's tale, a process we as readers hear about very rarely (in fact, I'm not sure how much control authors usually have here). Sherman was immediately sold on Robin Miles for her ability to instinctively pronounce words like "New Orleans" as one from Louisiana would, and also Miles' ability to capture two disparate historical time periods in her voice: 1960 and 1860. And she does; Robin Miles was without a doubt the perfect narrator for The Freedom Maze, easily transporting the reader to these time periods with her voice, accents, and inflection. My only confusion stemmed from the fact that Sherman refers to the "creature" in her interview as a male, but in the audio it is undoubtedly female. The fact is, the creature works well as a genderless character, but I'm now curious what pronouns were used in the physical book.

The Freedom Maze is a phenomenal pick for all readers who enjoy the historical with a twist, particularly if you are a reader who enjoys introspection and quietly fearful plot lines. It will cause readers to really think about slavery in the history of this (or any) country, and how difficult arbitrary lines can become to draw over time.
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