Promises to the Dead by Mary Downing HahnAdolescent Paranormal/Historical Fiction
This is not a typical Hahn book and so, at first, I was a little disappointed. When I pick up a Hahn, I have been programmed to expect chills, thrills and goosebumps. Well, actually, some of that was true in this book, too, but not because of a scary ghost. The chills came from the living--which was so much more evil than anything undead.
The story is set during the Civil War (a historic setting was another departure for Hahn's regular style). Jesse is an orphan who lives with his bachelor uncle who sends him into the swamps one night hunting for a turtle so that he might have terrapin soup made by their slave cook. As Jesse is stumbling around in the dark muck, he comes across an escaped slave, who is about to give birth, and her young son. As a Southerner, Jesse has been taught to turn all slaves in but something about this young mother tickles his conscience and, instead, he goes to get her help. On her death bed, the slave makes Jesse promise that he will deliver her young son to relations in the North so that he might be free. It is a promise that Jesse dreads making because he knows it will bring him nothing but trouble.
I really liked this book. I fell in love with the character of Jesse--I've never seen a character have so much angst over doing the right thing! The story snuck up on me and surprised me because I was ready to be disappointed with it. That's what I get for doubting Hahn, a master storyteller of any genre.