Cover image for The eulogist : a novel / Terry Gamble.
Title:
The eulogist : a novel / Terry Gamble.
ISBN:
9780062839893

9780062839909
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2019]

©2019
Physical Description:
310 pages ; 24 cm
Abstract:
"From the author of The Water Dancers and Good Family comes the story of an Irish family that emigrates to America in 1819 and settles in Cincinnati, Ohio, where they will confront the horrible reality of slavery on the opposite bank of the Ohio River"-- Provided by publisher.

1819. Cheated out of their family estate in Northern Ireland after the Napoleonic Wars, the Givens family settle in Cincinnati. After losing their mother in childbirth and their father to a riverboat headed for New Orleans, James, Olivia, and Erasmus Givens must fend for themselves. Ambitious James eventually marries into a prosperous family, builds a successful business, and rises in Cincinnati society. Taken by the spirit and wanderlust, Erasmus becomes an itinerant preacher, finding passion and heartbreak as he seeks God. Independent-minded Olivia, seemingly destined for spinsterhood, enters into a surprising partnership and marriage with Silas Orpheus, a local doctor who spurns social mores. -- adapted from jacket
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Summary

Summary

From the author of The Water Dancers and Good Family, an exquisitely crafted novel, set in Ohio in the decades leading to the Civil War, that illuminates the immigrant experience, the injustice of slavery, and the debts human beings owe to one another, witnessed through the endeavors of one Irish-American family.



Cheated out of their family estate in Northern Ireland after the Napoleonic Wars, the Givens family arrives in America in 1819. But in coming to this new land, they have lost nearly everything. Making their way west they settle in Cincinnati, a burgeoning town on the banks of the mighty Ohio River whose rise, like the Givenses' own, will be fashioned by the colliding forces of Jacksonian populism, religious evangelism, industrial capitalism, and the struggle for emancipation.

After losing their mother in childbirth and their father to a riverboat headed for New Orleans, James, Olivia, and Erasmus Givens must fend for themselves. Ambitious James eventually marries into a prosperous family, builds a successful business, and rises in Cincinnati society. Taken by the spirit and wanderlust, Erasmus becomes an itinerant preacher, finding passion and heartbreak as he seeks God. Independent-minded Olivia, seemingly destined for spinsterhood, enters into a surprising partnership and marriage with Silas Orpheus, a local doctor who spurns social mores.

When her husband suddenly dies from an infection, Olivia travels to his family home in Kentucky, where she meets his estranged brother and encounters the horrors of slavery firsthand. After abetting the escape of one slave, Olivia is forced to confront the status of a young woman named Tilly, another slave owned by Olivia's brother-in-law. When her attempt to help Tilly ends in disaster, Olivia tracks down Erasmus, who has begun smuggling runaways across the river--the borderline between freedom and slavery.

As the years pass, this family of immigrants initially indifferent to slavery will actively work for its end--performing courageous, often dangerous, occasionally foolhardy acts of moral rectitude that will reverberate through their lives for generations to come.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Gamble's third novel (after Good Family) concerns the lives of the Givens siblings, Irish immigrants who start over in 1819 Cincinnati. Olivia, the book's strong-willed narrator, takes a shine to like-minded doctor Silas Orpheus, who admires her distaste for religion and allows her to surreptitiously dissect corpses with him. Olivia's older brother, James, a successful candle maker who married rich, is initially reluctant to give his blessing for their marriage, as Silas's disreputable brother, Eugene, sends a slave, Tilly, in lieu of a proper dowry. Olivia and Tilly become friendly, and Tilly helps her set up her own business doing hair. Olivia's ambivalence toward slavery dissipates when Silas dies and she meets Eugene's family on their Kentucky property. When Olivia enlists the help of her younger brother, Erasmus, now a Methodist preacher living on a river encampment, to help lead one of the slaves to freedom, Eugene retaliates by demanding that Tilly be returned. Since Ohio is a free state, an ill-fated trial ensues. Olivia and her family are thereafter pulled into the movement to smuggle slaves to freedom. Gamble adeptly chronicles Olivia's transformation from a free-thinking but unaffected young woman into a determined widow who wants to indirectly avenge Tilly. This is a standout depiction of family dynamics, and will appeal to fans of fiction set in pre-Civil War America. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

In 1828, when this novel commences, Cincinnati is a bustling crossroads with a teeming, polyglot populace and tobacco, indigo and?1 runaway slaves flowing up from the South. Fifteen-yearold Olivia arrives from Ireland with her two brothers to settle in "the North's last bastion before the frontier." After their mother dies and their father runs off, Olivia, James and Erasmus must fend for themselves. A young woman of independent mind and progressive morals, Olivia looks back on her exciting, subversive youth from the vantage point of her ninth decade. James goes into the candle-making business, Erasmus fashions himself an itinerant preacher and Olivia struggles to fit into the female role that's been assigned to her. She holds needlepoint "in my lap like a sleeping cat," knowing she should impress a suitor with her cross-stitched daisies, but can't bring herself to care. Instead she gains entry to the secret world of the human body when she befriends and later marries a doctor and assists in his anatomical research. She also follows Erasmus to camp meetings, which "might otherwise be a bacchanal, had more liquor been available." Olivia becomes entwined in antislavery pursuits, first on behalf of a woman named Tilly, setting her up in a hairdressing venture through which she might buy back her freedom, then in a more elaborate scheme involving a wagon filled with hats for sale and an ingeniously concealed, human-size compartment. As improbable as some of the particulars might be, Gamble seduces with her rich, rollicking portrait of life in Jacksonian Ohio.


Library Journal Review

Following their mother's death on the way over from Ireland and their subsequent abandonment by their father, the Givens children must fend for themselves in 1819 Cincinnati. Older brother James aspires to become a responsible businessman, wild younger brother Erasmus unexpectedly finds religion and separates himself from society, and freethinking sister Olivia struggles to find fulfillment in a community with very restrictive ideas about women. Though there's some pleasure in her marriage to an eccentric local doctor, the true test of Olivia's character comes when she meets the people enslaved by her in-laws in Kentucky and must decide how far she will go to help them fight for their freedom. -Gamble's third novel (Good Family; The Water Dancers) paints an absorbing portrait of life in Cincinnati in the decades leading up to the Civil War and convincingly depicts how one woman's attitudes toward slavery might change from vague disapproval to passionate opposition during the time. The large cast crucially includes well-developed African American characters who are never portrayed as passive victims regardless of their circumstance. VERDICT Recommended for historical fiction fans interested in the time period and in strong-willed heroines forging their own path. [See Prepub Alert, 7/30/18.]-Mara Bandy Fass, Champaign P.L., IL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.