I found Wayfarers a satisfying read, with rich detail, realistic characters, a complex plot, and, most of all, a consistent point of view. Some U.S. Civil War aficionados might fault Cook for not including generals’ names or locations of battles or even dates, but for myself, the not knowing was a realistic representation for the types of people portrayed in this book, specifically slaves during this time period.
The slaves find out they are free from a passing soldier; they then need to decide whether to stay or leave. Those who are able to walk away from plantations to head north are the “wayfarers” of the title, and theirs is not an easy journey. But along the way, just as for those who stay behind, they form new bonds, building families to replace the ones they’ve lost or never had.
I think the sense of bonding was the aspect I liked most about Wayfarers. There are two main characters—Daniel the slave boy and Jerry the massa’s son—whose bonding starts early in their childhood and continues, as we learn in the prologue, well into their adulthoods in “the life” of New York. How they regained their bond after they were forcibly separated is the thread of this book, plaited with vivid characters who tugged at my heartstrings. I read this book in one day, my only quarrel being the sections where Cook over-explains, as though unsure of his mastery. The dialectic spelling does not take long to get used to and is integral to the realism. Recommended.