Cover image for Freedom's altar
Freedom's altar
Price, Charles F., 1938-
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Publication Information:
Winston-Salem, N.C. : John F. Blair, [1999]

Physical Description:
291 pages ; 24 cm
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The Civil War has left the Curtis family with a dead daughter, two dead sons, vengeful neighbors, and a once-grand home now broken down. Just as debilitating is Judge Madison Curtis's guilt over his actions in wartime, when he sacrificed another family to save his own.The most immediate reminder of the judge's past sins is a man he once held in bondage, who has returned to the mountains of western North Carolina after serving the Union army. In slavery, the Curtises knew him as Black Gamaliel, but he now insists on being known by his proper name -- Daniel McFee. They achieve an uneasy peace as Daniel proposes a sharecropping arrangement and begins a new life in freedom.But the judge perceives that the opportunity for true racial reconciliation after the war is being squandered. Militating against it is an antihero who would elevate the blacks by crushing the landed whites -- a demagogue by day and a killer by night.This novel examines those sacrificed on freedom's altar, from former Confederate soldiers to former slaves, all of whom struggle against bitterness to discover their better selves at an hour of need.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Price's second novel, set in the mountains of North Carolina the year immediately following the Civil War, continues the family saga he began in Hiwassee (1996). During the war, Judge Madison Curtis, a Confederate planter, diverted a band of violent thieves in an effort to protect his family. The subsequent slaughter of a neighboring clan continues to assault Judge Curtis' conscience and eventually leads to the court trial that serves as the dramatic center of this novel. In addition to the dwindling Curtis family, which has been decimated by war and disease, the novel's large cast includes Oliver Price, a humble cobbler who proves capable of heroism; Nahum Bellamy, a charismatic abolitionist leader with a secret past; and Daniel McFee, a former slave and Union soldier who has returned to Judge Curtis to propose a crop-sharing arrangement. As these last two men negotiate uneasily for land and respect, Price admirably resists simple resolutions. Written in a lyrical yet controlled voice appropriate to the period, Price's compelling novel succeeds in fusing history and heart. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0895871777James Klise

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this sequel to his well-received Hiwassee, Price again shows that he can write absorbing and moving historical fiction. At the end of the Civil War, North Carolina judge Madison Curtis, a former slave-owning farmer, finds his prosperity has eroded with the Confederate economy. Always a kind man (even to his slaves), Curtis is conflicted by his role in the institution of slavery and is mourning the loss of two sons who died fighting for the Rebels. And he is tormented by guilt, because in 1863 he saved his family from a gang of murderous, pillaging raiders by setting the criminals on neighbors loyal to the Union. When opportunist abolitionist and vigilante lawman Nahum Bellamy the Pilot hears of the slaughter that resulted, he brings charges against the Curtis family. If convicted, the Curtises' penalty will be redistribution of their farm to freedmen, but Bellamy has more violent ideas in mind. Other key players in this drama include Daniel McFee, who has returned from fighting on the Union side to sharecrop the land he worked as a slave, but can't forgive the owner he once loved; Oliver Price, a poor white man who befriended one of the Curtis boys in the army and witnessed the tragic night with the robbers; and Andy Curtis, the family's only son to survive the war, who is laboring to keep his kin together and defeat Bellamy. Price has partially based his narrative on his family's own genealogy and that of the real Madison Curtises; while he has taken fictional liberties, his narrative has an authoritative resonance and his prose is invested with a quiet confidence. Against a fascinatingly detailed backdrop of the decaying and lawless postslavery South, Price eloquently addresses questions of race and class and morality, poignantly exploring whether hope and loyalty can exist in a world where war has damaged lives irrevocably. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved