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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
Rachael, the narrator of A Spy’s Eyes: Rachael's Story by Dickie Erman, was born to a black mother impregnated by a landowner. Thanks to her light coloring, she has the good fortune to be raised by the landowner and his wife as their own child. Rachael grows up eschewing her white family’s disdain for the black slaves, and when it looks like the south might lose the war, Rachael decides she could put her good looks to use as a spy, charming secret information out of hopeful Northern soldiers/suitors. It’s a risky business but she becomes so good at it that she passes on vital information about an upcoming battle that takes the lives of thousands. But this well-meaning Southern girl begins to find herself increasingly conflicted by her role in this massacre when she learns first hand from a wounded Northern soldier what the North sees as so wrong about slavery. As so many young adults do once they’re away from home and see life from others’ perspectives, Rachael questions what her parents have always held as truths.
Over the past 6 months, I’ve read several novels based on life in the Southern US before the Civil War brought an end to slavery. Even though American history is far removed from my own heritage, I have found these books fascinating, and have been particularly sensitive to the fact that some wealthy white American landowners used black women for more than working in the cotton fields. A Spy’s Eyes is a tightly written, uncluttered novel that gets right to the important points in a minimum number of pages. Despite the brevity, the author still manages to create realistic characters who come alive through smooth dialogue and the narrator’s brief asides. This is an enjoyable short read about an important time in American history. Pack it into your onboard bag for your next trip.