The Loom, by Shella Gillus

The Loom
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

BOOK DESCRIPTION:   Lydia knew her fate. Like every other slave on the Maryland plantation, her life would end at the loom...

Throughout the pre-Civil War South, older slaves too worn out for anything else worked daily in the plantation's loom room, weaving and creating cloth for their families. Tucked away out of sight and forgotten by most everyone, the wisdom and hard-won experience of these slaves were often overlooked. But Lydia, a light-skinned house slave, listens to their words and dreams of a better life.

When running away leads to her recapture, Lydia discovers that with her pale skin, the right clothing, and pretense, she can walk into a world of freedom and wealth she has only dreamed of.

But Lydia struggles to leave behind the man she loves and the culture of a world in which she belongs. Drawing on the wise community in the plantation's loom room, Lydia chases freedom in a way no one ever expected and finds that she ultimately must choose between the love she has and the life she doesn't.

The Loom is a colorful tale of love linked to a lie and the discovery that life is not always black or white.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shella Gillus received a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arizona and earned her Screen Actor's Guild card while working in the film industry in Los Angeles. She has been crowned Miss Black Heritage and 1st runner-up Miss Black Arizona, and has done national media. The Loom is her fiction debut. She lives with her husband, Stacey, and their two children in Dallas.

MY THOUGHTS:  Lydia lives between two worlds. As a slave, she is part of those living on the plantation, owned by the Master. But she lives in the house with the family as a companion to their daughter, who is about Lydia's age.

She has a close relationship with her father and her grandmother, but she is also best friends with the Master's daughter, and Lydia's fair complexion doesn't make her African race obvious.  Her heritage is steeped in fear, death, hopelessness, and pain. Yet something stirs within her, what she refers to as a fire, something yearning to be free.

This allegory of the Christian life, of accepting our freedom and living in it, is rich in colorful symbolism, complicated characters, and intriguing secrets. The author delves into the heart of each of the main characters, giving us glimpses into what made them into who we see, thus revealing the events of the story from differing perspectives. I was riveted to every page of this book, although the maltreatment of the slaves was difficult to read about. An inspiring, dramatic, wonderful story.

PARENTAL RATING: This one is a bit too violent for my teen girls, and it does contain some scenes with sexuality.  But to be honest, I read worse as required reading in high school.  Should you decide to pass it along to your older child, you may want to read it first, as there's a lot to talk about in this twisty-turny plot.  Slavery.  Life choices.  Love.  Desire.  Freedom.  Family.  Honoring our elders.  Abuse.  And above all, the sacrifice paid for redemption.

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