A Fugitive in Walden Woods

Bellevue Literary. Jun. 2017. 240p. ISBN 9781942658221. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781942658238. F
Lock has embarked on a fascinating intellectual and artistic endeavor: engaging key American writers from the 19th century through a series of speculative historical novels. His well-received books include those on Twain (The Boy in His Winter), Whitman (American Meteor), and Poe (The Port-Wine Stain). In his latest installment, the author examines the life and work of Henry David Thoreau through the eyes of an escaped slave, Samuel Long. Lock handles the many complexities of this challenge skillfully and respectfully. Long has cut off one of his hands to escape a plantation in the South and is smuggled north via the Underground Railroad. He finds himself in Concord, MA, under the sponsorship of Ralph Waldo Emerson and protégé Thoreau. This conceit allows Lock to test the ideas of Emerson and Thoreau in the crucible of a very different kind of self-reliance and relationship to nature and America. There is no sermonizing here, just thought-provoking juxtapositions and conversations. Ultimately, what emerges is a unique and affectionate homage to Thoreau.
VERDICT Recommended for fans of 19th-century American literature.

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