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Reviewed by:
  • Underground
  • Elizabeth Bush
Ferris, Jean Underground. Farrar, 2007168p ISBN 978-0-374-37243-9$16.00 R Gr. 5-8

Decades before the Civil War, Charlotte Brown finds herself sold once again to a new master, the owner of the Mammoth Cave Hotel in Kentucky. Five slaves, including herself, make up the entire staff, and it's not long before two of the cave tour guides, Stephen and Nick, are vying for the affection of pretty sixteen-year-old Charlotte. She favors the more serious-minded Stephen, who has made something of a name for himself by discovering new sections of the cave. It's hard for romance to take root, though, when life is fraught with such anxieties as the threat of being sold away once again and the nerve-wracking business of hiding runaways in the cave. Moreover, the courage and determination of the fugitive slaves tempts Charlotte to flee as well, and Stephen's commitment to stay on and explore the caves leaves her struggling with competing desires for freedom and love. Ferris bases her tale very loosely on real persons, but she points out fairly and firmly in her closing notes that little is known of their actual characters and that there is no evidence that the Mammoth Cave was ever used to shelter runaways. The story offers an enticing what if?, though, and a quick and satisfying read for historical fiction fans.