Tuesday, September 8, 2009
OHP BOOK REVIEW: NEPTUNE'S HONOR, A STORY OF LOYALTY AND LOVE BY PAMELA MUELLER
Fiction, resources, 189 pp., 2005. Pinata Publishing, 112 Dunbarton Dr., St. Simons Island, GA, 31522. $10.99, plus shipping and handling.
Few War Between the States authors write expressly for the middle school age group. Neptune’s Honor, A Story of Loyalty and Love by Pamela Bauer Mueller is a recent historical fiction publication that boast of this attribute. The book is written from the viewpoint of Neptune Small, a black servant to the King family who lived in South Georgia, namely St. Simons Island. Neptune was the childhood friend and companion of Henry “Lordy” King. Their friendship was more like a kindred spirit, making them closer than brothers.
Mrs. Mueller’s research led her to several transcripts of interviews with the real Neptune Small. She attempted to use Neptune’s own words as much as possible when writing; yet, the author assumes many of Neptune’s feelings, thoughts and statements. The key element to remember is that this is a historical fiction based on a real person’s life. Mrs. Mueller is writing her interpretation of the events that transpired.
The story is very choppy, jumping from one event to another. Mrs. Mueller only includes significant dates that Neptune mentions in his writings or interviews but she does not develop the story, leaving the reader lacking in many crucial details.
The reader enjoys learning more about Neptune, but the other characters are not well established. There is an entourage of different individuals that are brought into the story, so the reader is overwhelmed as to what role each person plays.
The main flaw with this book is the writer’s inability to understand slavery in the 19th Century. Mrs. Mueller states in the forward, “My research of pre-Civil War local plantation families, coupled with transcripts of interviews with Neptune Small, gave me a sense that he felt sincere allegiance to the family that owned him.” This statement by itself would have been sufficient since 87% of the slaves interviewed in the Slave Narratives agreed with it; however, it is the 13% that the public hears about on a regular basis. Mrs. Mueller apparently wants the reader to be reminded of that small minority because she goes on to say, “This is not necessarily the experience of slaves living on other Georgia plantations.” Our culture has been indoctrinated that slaves were always beaten and ridiculed and never loved and honored as part of the family. The real Neptune Small’s story shows the reader that this is not so. It is unfortunate that Mrs. Mueller chooses to elude the reader in believing his story is a rare occurrence.
Throughout the book, Mrs. Mueller does not have historical facts correct. One such incident is when she has a dialogue between Neptune and Adam on July 30, 1861. In the conversation she implies that the North is fighting over slavery and Adam cannot understand why Neptune would want to follow Lordy into a war that will liberate him and other slaves. Mrs. Mueller’s research failed to show her that the United States Congress passed on July 23, 1861 a Congressional Resolution stating that the war not over slavery but preserving the Union. This was adopted just seven days before this supposed conversation.
Mrs. Mueller, like so many current authors, wants the reader to believe the war was only over slavery. The other misconception is that whites owned blacks and the slaves were beaten regularly. It is conveyed that slavery was a practice only in the South and never in the North. The in-depth research never reveals that there were a lot of blacks and white that did not own anyone and there were free men of color who owned blacks. Most people also overlook the fact that the Union General Ulysses S. Grant, along with others Northerners, owned slaves until after the War Between the States.
The story of Neptune Small is one that needs to be taught to the public; however, Mrs. Mueller’s interpretation should only be used with caution. Even as a fiction story, this book leads the reader to believe the words within its pages are true and well researched.
Written by Cassie A. Barrow