A Day to Pick Your Own Cotton

Written by Michael Phillips
Review by Viviane Crystal

The Civil War’s remote distance from present reality disappears with this sensitive yet realistic narrative story told by a plantation owner’s daughter and former slave, now surviving and forging a secret, new life. Having watched their families killed in the historical Shenandoah Valley Massacre by Bilsby’s marauders, Katie Clairborne and Mary Anne (Mayme) Jukes struggle to run the Rosewood plantation, pay off its debt, and raise enough money for necessary food and supplies.

Of note is a poignant conversation about why God lets horrible things happen such as the murder of their respective families, the rape of another former slave, and escape of an abused white girl who receive sanctuary at Rosewood. Their experiences powerfully connect the reader to well developed, faithful characters residing in a shelter for anyone who has been set adrift because of the war.

Unique to this novel is a wonderful presentation of cultural differences, delightfully presented in shared classical and African-American stories and music. Freedom is a word so commonly used that one forgets its precious nature, that is, until we read the words of Mayme. Her diary excerpts truthfully record the pre-Civil war mentality that took so long to change.

This second novel of the Shenandoah Sisters series is superb, like the first (Angels Watching Over Me), and emphatically deserves the highest commendations.