by Annette Snyder
Albert’s dream led him toward independence. Escaping slavery, and to pursue a life where no man controlled him, was his goal. Frivolities of friendships could vanish with the whip of a switch, but freedom could be held a lifetime.
Rayna’s choice was to set an example and board a ship so her people could survive. Only after arrival in America, at Bristol Plantation, did she realize what consequences her sacrifice held. Her surrender meant life as a slave and separation from her island family.
Can Albert’s heart transcend language and barriers of repression and allow Rayna close? Will Rayna put aside hurt caused by the plantation owner and permit Albert’s love to heal her heart? Can the pair abandon mistrust and let the kindness of strangers be their salvation?
This historical novel, set in nineteenth century America both before and after the Civil War, was a treat to read. Albert and Rayna meet as slaves on the Bristol plantation, but both are nobler than their terrible surroundings, and they are soon drawn to one another. When Rayna is raped and impregnated by the white slave-owner, Albert marries her to protect her name and honor. This is only the beginning of their life together, however, as they face the challenges of a flight from slavery, another child of their own, and a brand new life in Boston after the Civil War is over.
Ms. Snyder does a very nice job in developing her characters, especially portraying the life of a slave both working on a southern plantation and searching for a brand new life in the aftermath of the war. Albert and Rayna’s relationship grows through time and shared experiences, though both know from the start they are meant to be together. They are strong and stubborn, well-matched in every respect.
The plot moves along at an even pace until the very end, when a jarring nineteen-year shift surprises the reader. While I appreciated the author’s intent to weave in a sub-plot that emphasizes this book’s theme of repaying others for good deeds, I felt that the secondary characters and plotline happened too quickly and without enough development.
Other than the last thirty pages, which is almost another story altogether, Albert’s Rain is a fast, enjoyable read set in both the deep South and the Northeast. It does have its painful moments, as seen in the brutal ways the slaves are treated, but this is necessary in a historical novel, and anything less would have cheapened the obstacles Albert and Rayna must overcome. One final note: this novel is heavy on southern/black dialect, and the dialogue (written phonetically throughout) does get a but distracting at times.
I enjoyed Albert’s Rain despite a few minor issues and recommend it highly. Ms. Snyder captures this period in history very well, and it was refreshing to read about a non-traditional hero and heroine and the struggles they conquer to build a life together.