The Wished-for Country
by Wayne Karlin
Category: Fiction / Historical
342 pages; ISBN: 1880684896
Rating: 9/10 (Ratings explained)
Reviewer: Paul Lappen
This novel takes place in the mid-1600s, during the founding of the Maryland colony, in what is now Maryland and southern New Jersey. It was a time of seemingly constant conflict between the various nearby Indian tribes, whether for land or beaver pelts to sell to the white man, conflict which got brutal and bloody. The story revolves around three men: James Hallam, an indentured servant and carpenter, Ezekiel, an African slave who came to Maryland by way of Barbados, and Tawzin, a Piscataway Indian, who was kidnapped to England as a child, and is now back in America.
Ezekiel is also a skilled carpenter, and he and Hallam make quite a name for themselves as house builders, when doesn't chain him up at night to keep Ezekiel from escaping (Ezekiel is still a slave). One day, in a fit of rage, Hallam chops off one of Ezekiel's hands, after cutting the sixth finger off Ezekiel's other hand, and wearing the finger around his neck, like a talisman.
Hallam goes on to become a soldier and influential person in the politics of the colony. Tawzin and Ezekiel become leaders of a ragtag group of whites, blacks and Indians trying to reinvent themselves in an ever-changing world. It's almost like they are starting their own tribe.
This is the story of three different kinds of people. There are those who came to America with a dream full of promise and possibility, those who were brought against their wills to be the instruments of that dream, and the natives whose lives and world were forever altered by the arrival of the white man.
This book is excellent. It does a fine job at shedding light on a not-well-known part of American history. It is also a rather slow novel, so patience will be needed on the part of the reader. But, by the end of the story, that patience will be well rewarded. This is a gem of a story.