About the Book
Book: Arms of Freedom
Author: Kathleen Neely
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Release date: October 6, 2021
With each page of the age-old journals, Annie discovers all that unites her with a woman who once lived in her farmhouse. One lived with wealth and one with poverty, but both knew captivity. Both longed to be free.
Miriam yearns to escape her life as a super model. She drops the pseudonym and uses the name she gave up years ago—Annie Gentry. Then she alters her appearance and moves to rural South Carolina to care for her grandmother. Can she live a simple life without recognition? Can she hide a net worth valued in the millions? Love is nowhere in her plans until she meets a man who wants nothing more than Annie Gentry and the simple life he lives.
Charlotte lived in the same farmhouse in the tumultuous 1860’s. The Civil War was over, but for a bi-racial girl, freedom remained elusive. She coveted a life where she wouldn’t bring shame to her family. A life where she could make a difference. As she experiences hope, will it be wrested from her?
The journals stop abruptly with a climactic event, leaving Annie to search for information. What happened to Charlotte? Did her life make a difference? Did she ever find freedom?
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“But no one found me precious. One mother gave me away. The other used me for her purposes.” So laments Annie Gentry as she considers her past. Arms of Freedom by Kathleen Neely ties together Annie’s story and that of Charlotte, who lived in the same house 150 years before.
I really appreciated the forward. It warned of hard-to-read material and explained why author thought it important to highlight such a difficult time in our country’s past.
Even though Annie is a famous person hiding out incognito in small-town South Carolina, I found the story plausible and mesmerizing. The historical part presented by Charlotte’s diary helped me see how awful life could be for a non-white in the Reconstructionist South. How I cheered for both ladies, but especially for Charlotte, who learns how to stand strong. I love how the author finally connects the two separate stories with beautifully intertwining threads.
We get to meet some very pivotal secondary characters. Reverend Platt, Mrs. Pearson, Aunt Imani; plus Lillian, Darlene, and Seth. They all greatly influence either Charlotte or Annie regarding love, forgiveness, family, and belonging.
Part of the fun of reading a book like this was its setting. The author uses Greenville, South Carolina, as one nearby town, and I was thrilled to see references to the Liberty Bridge, the statue of Joel Poinsett, and “the Mice on Main.” I was also thrilled to find out what small town Hickory Falls is based on. Fun!
I discovered this last fact because of sections at the end of the book. There is a “where fact meets fiction” section and a reader’s guide with discussion questions.
I received a copy of this book from the author through Celebrate Lit. No positive review was required, and all opinions are my own.
Heartbreaking portrayal of two women, centuries apart, searching for love and belonging.
About the Author
Kathleen Neely is a retired elementary principal, and enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading.
She is the author of The Street Singer, Beauty for Ashes, The Least of These, Arms of Freedom, and In Search of True North. Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions.
Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.
More from Kathleen
I’d like to introduce myself and then share a little bit about my book, Arms of Freedom. I am a retired educator having taught preschool, fourth grade, and then moving into administration as an elementary principal. When I retired, I pursued my desire to write. My first novel, The Least of These, won first place in a contest titled Fresh Voices. That honor renewed my confidence, and since then, I’ve written five novels. Arms of Freedom is my first timeslip (dual timeline) novel.
Arms of Freedom was birthed during a time of racial tension in our nation; a time when social injustice and protests were forefront in the news. Many publishers safely avoided manuscripts with any mention of racial issues—perhaps a wise decision from a business perspective.
However, failure to look at our past denies us the opportunity to learn from history. Our fear of offending can push major historical offenses into a dark closet. I chose to illuminate those offenses by launching this book. Following the Civil War, the period of twelve years known as Reconstruction was perhaps the most brutal period of racial terrorism. The contents may be hard to read. I confess that I often wrote through tears.
In the end, I hope your takeaway is this: Regardless of race and ethnicity, all people are created in the image of God, a one-of-a-kind miracle, loved by Him, and created for a purpose. We are called to unity, to be perfectly one (John 17:23). May we join together in raising our arms of freedom to the Savior who released us from the captivity of sin.
So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. — John 8:36 NIV
I hope you enjoy Annie’s story as the life of this contemporary character intersects with Charlotte’s story from 150 years earlier. Both experience a coming-of-age change as they seek to escape from what holds them captive.
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To celebrate her tour, Kathleen is giving away the grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card!!
Be sure to comment on the blog stops for nine extra entries into the giveaway! Click the link below to enter.