Synopsis of The Alternative
Truth is stranger than fiction. This book sets out to make more sense than the US civil war. It seems unbelievable that a country would do more damage to themselves than any outside force has ever done. The Alternative explores another possibility that could be more believable.
Bobby Johnson was an only child who had a very kind father. Bobby made friends with his father's slaves and had difficulty understanding why they were treated differently from himself. When the local churches criticized his father for not whipping his slaves, Bobby was confused. The Bible taught love. Why would it insist on treating black people so cruelly? As he got older he became more and more convinced that slavery was wrong and vowed he would never be a slave owner.
Ruthie Lancer had a very difficult childhood. Her mother died due to complications while giving birth to her and her father saw his daughter as the little monster that killed his wife. Mr. Lancer took to strong drink to drown his sorrows. He saw his slaves as work animals that must be whipped to get the most out of them. Ruthie's affection for the slaves was seen as a weakness she inherited from her mother.
Ruthie was raised by slaves and she attempted to protect them from her father. She had a scar on her cheek caused by her father's whip when she placed herself between him and Sheila.
Krissy was her best friend but perhaps she was more like a favourite pet because, although Ruthie didn't believe in being cruel to slaves, she also didn't see them as equals. At fourteen years old, Ruthie discovered that her best friend was pregnant. She experienced the worst day of her life when she learned that, not only her father was responsible for the pregnancy, but that she also had a half brother that was three years younger than herself.
Ruthie and Bobby got married in 1825 after a very rocky courtship. Their attempts to get to know each other were hindered by Ruthie's abusive father and the system of slavery. As they overcame one problem after another, the effects that slavery had on them and others was highlighted.
Although Bobby vowed not to be a slave owner, it was his best friend, Samson, who came up with the plan to end slavery. Samson was weak and not much good for plantation work, so Mr. Johnson had considered selling him. At Bobby's insistance, Samson was kept as a playmate for the young heir. When Bobby came home from school each day, he would often play school with his friend and in that way Samson learned to read and write. Later, when Bobby went north to learn about the Bible away from the influence of the southern preachers, he took Samson along and they both got a college education.
Samson's physical strength was not great, although it did get better when his diet improved. His real strength was in his mind and his unshakable faith in God. Samson married Krissy in a double ceremony with Bobby and Ruthie. Together the foursome went on to change the history of the south.
Would they be able to prevent a war? The characters of this story raced against time to rid the south of an evil system before it could lead to war. Each time they made a little headway, more opposition would arise. In 1861 confederate forces would march on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Was this the begining of the end or did Bobby and his friends manage to change history?
The story discusses the advantages of a cooperative society over a competitive one while showing how love and kindness can triumph over hate and cruelty and how the actions of one man can have a ripple effect that changes the whole society he lives in. It also shows the evils of having different standards for black and white as well as for male and female.
The book is filled with emotional struggles as it shows how slavery affects all who are involved. The romantic struggles are complicated by the system of slavery. Bobby's attempts to end slavery are hindered by the pro-slavery churches and a society that knew nothing but the slavery system for 200 years.
This novel by George McNeish is now available in print
and on Kindle.
ISBN 978-1519127235. Order on line, from the author, or ask for it at your favourite book store.