Aindreas, The Messenger: Louisville, Kentucky, 1855

Written by Gerald McDaniel
Review by Meredith Campbell

He’s poor, Irish, epileptic, thirteen years old, and brilliant. Aindreas (Andrew) Rivers knows 1855 Louisville, Kentucky from its tenements to its mansions, from its docks to its slave pens. First of four in the Aindreas series, this story captures mid-century Louisville with deft precision.

Over the objections of his teacher and his mother, the boy leaves school to take a job as a courier for a local furniture maker. Throughout the spring and summer as he trots about the town on deliveries, he must deal with the prolonged death of his mother as well as a loutish older brother, a bitter father, and recurring seizures. The sensitive lad also takes pity on the plight of a slave family who has befriended him. To keep the family from being broken up and sold, he works for their run to freedom. With the help of a sympathetic boat captain, the escape attempt joins raw emotion to vivid action serving to hold the reader spellbound.

Aindreas also meets bigotry at its ugliest. In Louisville that August, the Know Nothing Political Party that flourished throughout mid-century America instigated a bloody riot against all foreigners which resembled Krystallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass.” The story of how this young teen keeps his dreams alive, surviving squalid surroundings and ugly circumstances, makes for poignant reading.