Synopses & Reviews
A deeply moving recasting of one of the most controversial characters in American literature, Huckleberry Finn’s Jim
Written in the great literary tradition of novels of American slavery, My Jim is told in the incantatory voice of Sadie Watson, an ex-slave who schools her granddaughter with lessons of love she learned in bondage. To help her granddaughter confront the decisions she needs to make, Sadie mines her memory for the tale of the unquenchable love of her life, Jim. Sadie’s Jim was an ambitious young slave and seer who, when faced with the prospect of being sold, escaped down the Mississippi with a white boy named Huck. Sadie is suddenly left alone. Worried about her children, convinced her husband is dead, reviled as a witch, and punished for Jim’s escape, Sadie’s will and her love for Jim, even in absentia, animate her life and see her through.
Told with spare eloquence and mirroring the true stories of countless slave women, My Jim re-creates one of the most controversial characters in American literature. A nuanced critique of the great American novel, My Jim stands on its own as a haunting and inspiring story about freedom, longing, and the remarkable endurance of love.
"In her spare, moving retelling of the story of escaped slave Jim from Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Rawles shifts the focus to Jim's wife, Sadie, whose unspeakable losses set the tone for Jim's flight. Trained as a healer, Sadie helps bring Jim into the world when she herself is 'no higher than a barrel.' As they grow up together on Mas Watson's Missouri plantation, Jim only has eyes for Sadie, and after an informal marriage following their daughter Lizbeth's birth, they consider fleeing together. Their plans change when Mas Watson dies, and Sadie is taken by a hateful neighbor while Jim is kept on by Mas Watson's daughter. Jim finally escapes on his own, but is presumed dead when his hat is found floating in the Mississippi. After countless tribulations, Sadie meets up again with Jim, who has ventured down the Mississippi with Huck Finn in the meantime, but the pair are not reunited. Further disappointment comes after emancipation, when Sadie learns that freedom looks an awful lot like slavery. Writing in sonorous slave dialect, Rawles creates a memorable protagonist in Sadie and builds on Twain's portrayal of Jim while remaining true to the original. Agent, Victoria Sanders. (Jan.) Forecast: Like Jean Rhys in Wide Sargasso Sea, Rawles sketches an impressionistic portrait of a secondary 19th-century fictional character. This is a skillful addition to a small subcanon and may find a place on some high school reading lists." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"This book is a beautiful and powerful re-vision that teaches us to see with new eyes. I wholeheartedly recommend it." Sherman Alexie
"The intimate and immediate nature of the narrative draws the reader quickly into Sadie's story of physical and emotional pain....[H]ighly recommended." Library Journal
"It's always risky to build a narrative around someone else's characters, but second-novelist Rawles handles Twain's creations so deftly that it would be hard to imagine him objecting....Intensely sad but not mawkish: a very fine love story, wonderfully narrated with a perfect feel for the time and place." Kirkus Reviews
"Here, finally, is the Jim we can only glimpse between hijinks and humiliations in Huck Finn
a man who's clever and tender, romantic and tragic. And there's just no escaping his wife's voice. I read some chapters without blinking. In her perfectly artless manner, Sadie moves through a love story that's horrible and harrowing, but somehow she arrives at an affirmation earned with her own blood." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
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About the Author
Nancy Rawles is an award-winning novelist and playwright. Her novel Love Like Gumbo was the recipient of the American Book Award. She lives in Seattle.