An Undisturbed Peace

Written by Mary Glickman
Review by Sarah Johnson

Set in the mountains and backwoods regions of the southeastern United States in the 1820s and ‘30s, this novel centers on intercultural prejudice, a great injustice, and compassion. It offers a poignant retelling of the lead-up to the Trail of Tears while also evoking a little-known aspect of Jewish-American history.

When Abrahan Sassaporta, an itinerant peddler, falls in love with Marian of the foothills, a beautiful, defiantly independent Cherokee woman living alone in a cabin on his trading route, he becomes personally entangled in a tragic tale set in motion twenty years earlier. Marian’s parents, believing that alliances with white settlers would secure the Cherokees’ future, had sent her to London for a year and sought her marriage to a white neighbor, but Marian had other plans. Her shared past with a black slave named Jacob – one involving forbidden love, murder, and betrayal – is revealed bit by bit.

Abe inspires empathy for his open-minded nature, and because he’s trapped in debt to his uncle Isadore, but he’s naïve in several ways. He believes his passion for Marian will eventually be returned in full, and that the freedom he finds in his new country will be granted to her people as well. Both the Jews and Cherokee have faced persecution, and Abe sees parallels between their cultures. Not surprisingly, given the federal government’s greed for Cherokee land, the future turns out differently than he hopes.

Mary Glickman paints a resplendent portrait of the unspoiled wilderness of North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia, and her prose has a crystalline purity that echoes the cadence of fiction written at that time. One minor mistake was noted (a $20 bill), but overall, this is historical fiction well told. The well-rounded characters exude strength and grace, and the story brings history alive with powerful impact.