The Driver’s Wife

Written by S.K. Keogh
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

In 1693, former sailor Edward Ketch works for his former captain, a onetime pirate, Jack Mallory, and his wife, Maria, on a rice plantation in the Carolinas. He becomes attracted to a young mulatto slave named Isabelle. Separated from her mother at the trading block in Charles Town, Isabelle is withdrawn, and soon her marriage to a fellow slave becomes an abusive situation. Ketch, who is an outcast from other white people because of his rough mannerisms, rescues her from her difficult marriage by killing her husband. Ketch now risks his relationship with his master, and with the other drivers who may learn of his involvement in the murder.

This is a fascinating novel about slavery in the Deep South in the 17th century. The author has previously written a trilogy, The Jack Mallory Chronicles, and this story is a spin-off with Ketch as the protagonist. Ms. Keogh examines the everyday life of slaves enduring the daily grind and provides interesting and troubled main characters with secret pasts.

This is also a love story with a twist: the forbidden relationship and marriage of a white man and a slave and its repercussions among the residents of Leighlin Plantation. The author examines how the relationships between blacks and whites can differ, and she shows a masterful command of the customs of the era. The novel is well-written, with well-formed and credible characters. I enjoyed reading this novel, although some readers might be made uneasy by the subject matter and how it deals with slavery.