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Freedom's Altar

Charles F. Price

John F. Blair, Publisher
$15.95 paperback
6 x 9
291 pages
Published 1999

Judge Madison Curtis has just pronounced the benediction over the grave of his eldest daughter when two grimy women riding double on a mule enter his driveway.
"Have ye got misfortune, I wonder?" the elder one calls. "Iffen ye do, I rejoice in hit."

The Curtises have misfortune indeed. The Civil War has left them a dead daughter, two dead sons, vengeful neighbors, and a once-grand home now broken down. Just as debilitating is Judge Curtis’s guilt over his actions in wartime, when he sacrificed another family to save his own.

The most immediate reminder of the judge’s past sins is a man he once held in bondage, who has returned to the mountains of western North Carolina after serving with the Union army. In slavery, the Curtises knew him as Black Gamaliel, but he now insists on being known by his proper name—Daniel McFee. They achieve an uneasy peace as Daniel proposes a sharecropping arrangement and begins a new life in freedom.

But the judge perceives that the opportunity for true racial reconciliation after the war is being squandered. Militating against it is an antihero who would elevate the blacks by crushing the landed whites—a demagogue by day and a killer by night. He is Nahum Bellamy the Pilot, and he means to hold Judge Curtis accountable even unto death.

In this, the sequel to his critically acclaimed novel Hiwassee, Charles F. Price examines those sacrificed on freedom’s altar: carefree Andy Curtis, who returns from war to assume burdens beyond his capacity; Oliver Price, who must weigh his responsibility toward his dying wife against the need of his friends; and foremost, the Curtises’ former slaves, who struggle against bitterness and discover their better selves at an hour of need.



  • 1999 Sir Walter Raleigh Award


“In this sequel to his well-received Hiwassee, Price again shows that he can write absorbing and moving historical fiction. . . . Price has partially based his narrative on his family’s own genealogy and that of the real Madison Curtises; while he has taken fictional liberties, his narrative has an authoritative resonance and his prose is invested with a quiet confidence. Against a fascinatingly detailed backdrop of the decaying and lawless postslavery South, Price eloquently addresses questions of race and class and morality, poignantly exploring whether hope and loyalty can exist in a world where war has damaged lives irrevocably.” —Publishers Weekly
”This sequel to Price’s Hiwassee (1996), answers some moral questions left hanging in the earlier novel. . . . The author weaves into the tale portions of his own family history (the Price and Curtis families here are factually inspired). By story’s end, despite the warmth of Judge Curtis, the reconciliation of the races has failed to take place and the hate-mongers are on the rise. Well written, and cutting deeply into the theme of racial prejudice.” —Kirkus Reviews