Middle Passage by Charles Johnson

The library wants this book back so I had to read it.  It was part of a collection of books the library had put on display for Black History Month.  The book caught my eye.  I know I had heard of the book but had never read it.

I would have remembered if I had ever read Middle Passage before.  This book is that good.

The story is a combination of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Homer’s The Odyssey, and major philosophy works.  However, dear reader, please don’t let that scare you away.

The protagonist, Rutherford Calhoun, finds himself in a bit of trouble and stows away on a ship in the port of New Orleans.  This is his voyage of discovery and recounts his journey in a first person narrative that takes many twists and turns.  Rutherford discovers that the truth is never quite what it seems.

Many of my professors in college had us write essays about the “dangers” of a first person narrative.  The reader only has one point of view.  How can one distinguish between what the story teller tells and what is really going on?  Is the story even true?  Can the reader even believe the story if there is only one side?

Rutherford is a completely believable character.  He lets the reader in on his train of thought and about his past and how he ended up on the ship, the Republic.  There is a lot of irony in the names and details given.  The whole book is a ship’s log that survived the worst of the worst.

This book is best suited for fourteen years and older.


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