Lori Benton’s wrenching second novel in the Kindred series probes the wounds of the US’s racist past to prove that love and God conquer all.
Seona is a former slave who lives in Boston with her son, Gabriel. Gabriel’s father, Ian, is a capable carpenter who lives in North Carolina, where he pines for Seona and the son he barely knows. Though these relationships are strained, a chance discovery brings Ian into newfound wealth, letting him escape the South and return to Boston. He has a fortuitous meeting with a traveler heading in the same direction, and is invited to a new community, Shiloh, in New York. There, his neighbors love each other despite their differences, and make space to live with Native Americans, too. The relationships he witnesses in Shiloh give Ian hope for a bright future.
Seona is an interesting and complex lead, for whom understanding her heart requires navigating a difficult social system and the demands of her faith. When Ian returns in the role of the broken prodigal son, he finds that his brother despises him, that his father has plans he isn’t interested in, and that home is not what he expected. It’s left to Seona to decide whether—and how—she fits in Ian’s new world. Rich Christian allegories and allusions lead the tale throughout, as when Shiloh becomes like a miniature Eden for Ian’s family. But here, big biblical themes also pair with well-attended, tender moments, as when families share time at home around the fire, and develop strengths as they overcome adversity.
Shiloh is a tender novel that confronts historical racism with a hopeful message about love and redemption.
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