The Long Shadow

Written by Beth Kanell
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

This is book one of the Winds of Freedom series. It is March 1850 in northeastern Vermont, and teenaged Alice Sanborn works hard helping her parents both in the house and with the farm chores outside and in the barn. She and her best friend, Jerushah, have taken twelve-year-old Sarah under their wing. Sarah is a runaway slave, assisted by the Underground Railroad to escape Virginia and seek a better life in the North. Alice’s relatives are abolitionists, although they argue about the best way to free the slaves considering the political and socio-economic climate of the times.

In trying to help fellow abolitionists avoid a bounty hunter looking for escaped slaves, Alice inadvertently puts herself, Jerushah, Sarah, and others of their friends in a good deal of danger. As they battle the brutal late winter weather of northern Vermont, their very survival is in doubt. Gritty Alice, almost as rock-ribbed as her Vermont hills, copes with aplomb, although other characters are not as strong as she is. It is chilling to think that even in Vermont near the Canadian border, runaway slaves could still be captured and returned to their southern masters.

This story gives a realistic picture of women’s lives at that time—the endless, grinding drudgery, the difficulties entailed in domestic life, outdoor work, and pregnancy and childbirth. Mostly it is a reminder that freedom is not free. There were many struggles and sacrifices along the way before slavery was abolished and all Americans were emancipated. I read this book in one sitting just before the Martin Luther King Day holiday, and while the story is entertaining, it sends an important message about cherishing and safeguarding our liberties—liberties for all of us.