Children’s Book Reviews

Children's Book Review: The Gospel Truth

Publish October 7, 2014

Born and raised as a slave on a tobacco plantation in 19th century Virginia, sixteen-year-old Phoebe longs to find her mother, who was sold to another master when Phoebe was six. Although it’s against the law, Phoebe learns to read, believing that one day she will find the written record of her mother’s sale and be able to find her. Life is hard on the plantation, but Phoebe’s friend, Shad, is certain that it’s safer to stay put then to escape and suffer the consequences of being caught. But one day, the enigmatic Doctor Bergman arrives, and asks Phoebe to help him in his study of the local birds. All the slaves know that nothing good comes of a white man’s interest in a beautiful black girl, and Phoebe soon learns, much to her dismay, that she is living proof of this. In Caroline Pignat’s The Gospel Truth, nothing is as it seems, and although Phoebe’s circumstances are now more desperate than ever, escape may no longer be an option. Winner of the 2009 Governor General’s Award, Pignat is the master of the understatement — never explicit, but always hinting at a dangerous subtext that sophisticated readers will immediately understand. Although the concept of an entire novel written in free verse might intimidate some readers, Pignat’s plot moves quickly and her language is accessible, artfully weaving the narratives of six separate characters with an unerring instinct for the rhythmic vernacular of the Old South. Powerful, heartbreaking, and occasionally ironic, The Gospel Truth is a carefully constructed series of puzzle pieces that, when put together, reveal a brilliantly imagined piece of historical fiction.   Karen Doerksen Karen Doerksen lives in Sherwood Park, Alberta with her husband and four children. She works for the Edmonton Public Library, and holds a master’s degree in Library and Information Studies from the University of Alberta. Logo-NoType The National Reading Campaign publishes children’s book reviews  under a Creative Commons License. This review is entirely free to reproduce and republish online and in print. Credit must be given to the reviewer and the National Reading Campaign. Reviews can be edited for brevity only. Contact Us for more information.    

The Gospel Truth

Caroline Pignat
Red Deer Press
ISBN 13: 9780889954939

Award-winning author Caroline Pignat's new historical novel recreates the world of a Virginia tobacco plantation in 1858. Through the different points of view of slaves, their masters and a visiting bird-watcher the world of the plantation comes to live in this verse novel.