In the Upper Country

Books on Tape. Jan. 2023. 9:47 hrs. ISBN 9780593629017. $76. F
Thomas’s outstanding debut transports listeners to the 1850s fictional town of Dunmore, located in southern Ontario, Canada, at the terminus of the Underground Railroad. Citing the provisions of the Fugitive Slave Act, a white bounty hunter arrives in the mostly Black town in pursuit of individuals fleeing enslavement. He is shot by Cash, one of the women he was pursuing; she chooses jail over more running, and while there, she meets Lensinda Martin, a well-educated Black journalist and healer who lives nearby. The women begin to exchange stories, and soon it is revealed that Cash is Lensinda’s grandmother, a free Black woman who was abducted and forcibly enslaved. The stories that the women share speak to the complex history of African Canadian and Indigenous Canadian populations in the late 18th and 19th centuries. Thomas creates a powerful story with carefully crafted lyrical prose. Narrators Milton Barnes, Tymika Tafari, and Wesley French provide evocative and sensitive performances. Tafari’s voicing of both Lensinda and Cash is particularly noteworthy and piercingly beautiful, bringing depth to this already compelling story.
VERDICT A vivid, engrossing tale for those interested in history and the narratives of enslaved people. Highly recommended.
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