From the author of the bestselling River, Cross My Heart—a compelling and lyrical new novel about a young black woman in the Civil War era who finds refuge in a racially tolerant community.
ANGELS MAKE THEIR HOPE HERE is set in an imagined community in a mountainous area roughly north and west of Paterson, New Jersey in the 19th century. Russell’s Knob is a hidden, secretive place settled by people who might be described today as bi-racial or tri-racial. The inhabitants describe themselves as runaways and stay-aways. They are people who reject the limiting definitions of racial identity and character of 19th century, mid-Atlantic, North America and live outside of the “white” towns. They are spoken of derisively as “amalgamators” and “race mixers” though their true history is as complex as is the history of settlement in the region.
Dossie, a young girl on the cusp of puberty is conducted on the Underground Railroad from an island plantation in southern Maryland in hopes of finding freedom with the help of the bold, committed individuals who lead escapees through the region toward the free states and the Canada border. Duncan Smoot, one of Russell’s Knob’s bold, charismatic, entrepreneurial citizens, a member of a distinguished founding family, is a conductor on the Underground Railroad. It falls to him to rescue the young wayfarer when another conductor is arrested and tortured. He brings Dossie to Russell’s Knob—to his home—and she comes to believe that she has reached the promised land, a heaven.
Dossie has reached her haven in Russell’s Knob, a complex and often troubled refuge that is a beacon to the escaping slave and a bulwark against their pursuer. Dossie matures and flourishes in the community and with the Smoot family until a violent confrontation causes her to leave, seek refuge in New York City, then abandon the town during the Draft Riots of July, 1863.
With the same storytelling brio that distinguished the acclaimed novels River, Cross My Heart and Stand the Storm, Breena Clarke weaves the richly dramatic story of one woman's triumph in the crucible of history.