Born enslaved to the McKee family in Beaufort, South Carolina, Robert, soon dubbed Trouble, worked in the McKee household. As a preteen Trouble lived up to his name and was sent to work on a Plantation after physically hurting a neighbor's son. At the Plantation, Trouble earned the name Robert Smalls. He also gained strength and perspective on being a slave in South Carolina. When Robert returns from the Plantation, Mr. McKee finds him a job at a restaurant and then on a boat, The Planter. Robert has a natural love for the water and is happy on the boat where he works his way up and is able to save some of his own money. While Robert is working, he hears rumblings of the coming war. Soon, the Planter is reassigned as a warship for the Confederate States of America and Robert is kept as the Planter's helmsman. With some of the other enslaved crew, Robert makes a daring escape to the North on the Planter with 15 people, including his wife and children.
Trouble the Water is an amazing story of freedom, hope and persistence based on the life of the real Robert Smalls. The writing brings the reader right into the action, beginning the story with Robert's escape to freedom and then bringing us back to his birth at the McKee's. Most of all, the writing reflects the emotional toll of all of the characters. From Robert and his mother being enslaved, to Mr. & Mrs. McKee being the slave holder as well as one the McKee's children, Liza Beth and one the neighbor's children, Peter Rhett, the complex emotional journeys of the characters were shown in different ways, often with profound results. I was amazed at how events in Robert's life set him up to be a powerful freedom seeker; Robert's mother, Lydia was an amazing source of strength, Robert had an affinity for learning and amazingly had positive relationships with his enslavers. It was clear that Robert was passionate about his local community and after the Civil War he became the United States Representative, moving back into the home where he was born a slave, fighting for rights of African Americans and even allowing Mrs. McKee to move back into the home with him in her later life. The understanding and change of mindset and growth for all of these characters was tremendous, especially during such a volatile time in American history. I love stories where I get to learn about history and was very happy to learn about this true American hero, Robert Small and his accomplishments and courageous acts.
This book was received for free in return for an honest review.