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The Price Paid for a Dream - an Editorial Review of "Like Doves of the Valley"

Book Blurb:

“My new mistress proved to be all she appeared when I first met her at the door—a woman of the kindest heart and finest feelings…But, alas! this kind heart had but a short time to remain such. The fatal poison of irresponsible power was already in her hands, and soon commenced its infernal work. That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon.”

--Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Carrie Adams left a privileged but confining lifestyle in antebellum Virginia to settle with George, a poor but earnest man in the backcountry of North Carolina. Together they plan a life free from the societal confines of wealth by carving a farm out of the wilderness.

Soon though, the ledger sheet of their farm turns to red, and Carrie devises a sinister plan involving the lives of their enslaved population to make ends meet. The scheme requires George’s active participation, who understands Carrie’s idea’s necessity, and as a dutiful husband, he agrees.

Neither of them realizes the price that each of them will pay for their dream. The plantation they created will prosper, while their marriage, even their entire family, is shattered by their unthinkable undertaking to attempt to play God.

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Editorial Review:

“Like Doves of the Valleys,” written by David Herington, is a fascinating chronological journey through the life of the protagonist Carrie Adams and her family. The author begins the book in the year 1861, then revisits events from 1817 and progresses through the years in chronological order.


The opening of the book places the reader directly in the midst of Carrie's life, a 64-year-old woman facing challenges related to rheumatism and reminiscing about her complex past. Painful memories and some regretful choices create a dense, captivating atmosphere. In Richmond, Carrie grapples with shadows from the past, and the consequences of her decisions reverberate through the fates of those around her.


Carrie Adams lay in bed, her head resting on a feather pillow. Soft moonlight filtered through the curtains at the window, casting patterns of light and dark on the wall. She lay with her eyes closed, but she knew from many nights past that sleep would not come, not for hours. [...] The twisted fingers and misshapen joints appeared in front of her, a legacy from years, decades now, of ravaging by rheumatism. It plundered her body, stealing away her youth and beauty, and now, at age 64, was stealing everything else, leaving her crippled and useless. Worse than useless, a burden. She dropped her hands down and closed her eyes but, still, she knew that she would linger in wakefulness for hours yet. In these quiet hours of the night, before sleep granted her a brief measure of oblivion, memories would come flooding into her, regrets piling one on top of another.”


The detailed description of the characters, as well as the landscapes and key moments, adds depth to the narrative. Despite the initial wealth of the Adams family, their outlook on life and the choice to remain in the South lead to dramatic transformations. Details about relationships with slaves, including the painful betrayal of the promise made to the two half-sisters who were slaves, add complexity and tension to the story.


The abrupt changes in perspective and chronological leaps may initially seem disorienting, but they provide a complete and detailed picture of Carrie's story. The evolution of the characters and the exploration of the impact of their decisions add depth and narrative complexity.


In a letter from 1838, Pastor Parker tells his wife, Evangeline, about the tragic events that took place on the plantation: “So, my dearest love, let me just get started with the most shocking part of my news. My employer, George Adams, is dead. He was struck down by one of the slaves. I sadly was witness to the entire episode, and it is haunting me even now. At the risk of upsetting you, I need to let you know what happened and my role in it, for I need you to understand if I appear changed when I come to see you and the children in Salisbury. [....]The truth is, Evangeline, I am sick of the stink of slavery. I am sick of the fear, sick of the blood, sick of the cowhide and the pistol. My soul is sick of this. I cannot rest. I cannot bear to be around the slaves, even good and loyal slaves that I have known for years, ones with whom I have prayed. I cannot help, but every time I am near, I feel a great agitation, a great fear grips my spirit, and my heart pounds away in a fashion I’ve never before felt.”


The author brings to the forefront three different perspectives represented by Kee, Carrie, and Jefferson. Their interactions underscore social hierarchies and the changes that take place over time. Kee, a slave who has been moved from the field to the master's house, reveals the complexities of her relationship with Missus Carrie, which seems to evolve as time passes. The portrait of Jefferson, a student at the University of Chapel Hill, adds an additional layer of complexity, highlighting his struggle with physical pain and homesickness.


The vivid descriptions of the environment and characters add depth and authenticity to the entire context. Herington explores powerful themes such as love, suffering, struggle, identity, and the fight against discrimination. Author David Herington navigates skillfully through these themes, offering readers not only a captivating story but also a profound reflection on history and humanity.


The intrigues that unfold around the main characters, such as the death of Jefferson's grandfather and the mystery behind the letter from his father, add a captivating and mysterious element: “Son, I’m sorry to tell you, but your grandmother passed away last night. She didn’t get up this morning, so Kee knocked on the door. When there was no answer, she went in to check on her, then straightaway called for me to come. Mother was laying there on her bed as always. She was cold to the touch. She died in her sleep. I think her heart just gave out. You know, Jefferson, how much she suffered. Lately, she just was having one bad day after another. Some days she was having to stay in bed all day, she couldn’t even make it to the library. [...] I know that you are in the middle of your final semester, Son, but I do want you to try to come home as soon as possible. I do believe we need to talk about the future.”

Herington's narrative style is captivating, providing readers with a sense of authenticity and empathy towards the characters. The excerpt skillfully builds tension and mystery, leaving us wanting more, eager to uncover further details about the characters' destinies.

Characters are presented at different stages of their lives, with attitudes and perspectives evolving over time.

A notable example is Kee's transformation—from being a slave taken from the fields to serve in the master's house, she undergoes significant changes in her relationship with Missus Carrie. While she once received at least a smile from the lady, she now finds her gaze empty and distant. This shift suggests a transition in the master-slave dynamic, with profound emotional and social implications.

Jefferson, a student at the University of Chapel Hill, is another example of evolution. Confronted with constant physical pain and a deep yearning for home, he goes through a challenging period at university. The feelings of loneliness and longing for his hometown prompt him to reflect on his own life and question his future.

The evolution of the main characters, especially Jefferson, becomes evident in this final stage. He is now willing to bring about change in the world he knows. This development underscores his internal struggle and resistance to the system in which he was raised. Additionally, the relationship between Jefferson and Garnett adds an extra layer of complexity, showing that change is not always simple and often involves difficult compromises and negotiations.

The book's final sequence, set in 1861, completes the story in a tumultuous historical backdrop, hinting at significant events of the time. The temporal inserts and the way the author reveals key information heighten the tension and anticipation. The entire context of the American Civil War and its potential impacts on the characters adds an extra layer of complexity and relevance.

David Herington not only explores the individual's struggle against oppression but also highlights the complexity of interpersonal relationships in a period filled with changes and uncertainties. The book promises not just a literary journey full of depth but also a profound reflection on how people face challenges in a complex historical context. Readers are immersed in a temporal and emotional journey through the life of the protagonist and those around her. "Like Doves of the Valleys" proves to be not just a mere historical account but also a foray into the human and social depths of a tumultuous era.


“Like Doves of the Valley” by David Herington receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company


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