• Hardcover: 368 pages
• Publisher: Harper (February 16, 2016)
In 1788 three men converge in the southern woods of what is now Alabama: Cat, an emotionally scarred white man; Bob, a garrulous black man fleeing slavery; and Istillicha, who seeks retribution after being edged out of his Creek town’s leadership.
In the few days they spend together, the makeshift trio commits a shocking murder that soon has the forces of the law bearing down upon them. Sent to pick up their trail, a probing French tracker named Le Clerc must decide which has a greater claim: swift justice or his own curiosity about how three such disparate, desperate men could act in unison.
Katy Simpson Smith skillfully brings into focus men whose lives are both catastrophic and full of hope—and illuminates the beating heart of a new America. A captivating exploration of how four men grapple with the importance of family, the stain of guilt, and the competing forces of power, love, race, and freedom.
HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Three men find an unusual friendship during a trying time in America’s history. In 1788, what is now Alabama an escaped slave, a Creek Indian and a wayward white man come together to travel for a few days and end up committing a murder. Tracking them is a Frenchman named Le Clerc; Le Clerc is sent by the law, but would rather satisfy his curiosity of why these men are traveling so amicably together.
I love that this story was imagined from a tiny piece of early American history where three men with the names of Bob, Cat and Istillicha committed a crime along the now named Murder Creek. This was an intricate look into the lives of three desperate men from three very different social classes that find that they are not so different. All three men are running from something and are able to find peace within one another’s understanding. Each man’s story unfolds slowly as the author weaves through their current journey and their backstory. I personally fell for Cat’s story the hardest, his story was gripping and heartfelt and he seemed to be the most damaged. His revelations and friendships with the others seemed to be the most inspiring. Le Clerc was another surprising character, although sent to capture them; he was truly interested in what brought these men together. Free Men offered an intense, emotional and unique look into well-developed characters.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.
Katy Simpson Smith is the author of a study of early American motherhood, We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, and a novel, The Story of Land and Sea. She lives in New Orleans.
Connect with Katy Simpson Smith through her website.