Chariot on the Mountain

Written by Jack Ford
Review by Anna Bennett

Based on the true story of Catharine “Kitty” Payne, Ford’s historical novel follows the story of a slave woman on her tumultuous path to freedom. Born the natural daughter of Master Maddox, Kitty finds herself and her children in a perilous position upon his death. Never popular with Mistress Mary, Kitty worries that she will be sold and separated from her three children, a fate worse than death to her. When a startling shift in perspective brings Mary to declare she will not only emancipate Kitty and the children but also escort them to the relative safety of Pennsylvania, the two women find themselves unexpected allies against the furious rage of Master Maddox’s nephew and wannabe heir, Sam.

Exploring topics including slavery, the Underground Railroad, the simultaneous joys and anguishes of such a path, socio-political mores surrounding “free” versus “slave,” and the courage it took to stare tradition down in a state known for its traditions, Chariot on the Mountain is an extraordinary experience for readers of all backgrounds and interests. Ford’s innate skills for bringing characters to life pairs beautifully with his power of description; setting the scenes wonderfully and drawing readers into the peril and excitement of Kitty’s journey. All this, in conjunction with demonstrable research to highlight authenticity and the truth behind the story, leaves one feeling stimulated, educated, and all the better for the read.