River Sing Me Home by Eleanor Shearer

We whisper the names of the ones we love like the words of a song. That was the taste of freedom to us, those names on our lips.

Mary Grace, Micah, Thomas Augustus, Cherry Jane and Mercy.

These are the names of her children. The five who survived, only to be sold to other plantations. The faces Rachel cannot forget.

It’s 1834, and the law says her people are now free. But for Rachel freedom means finding her children, even if the truth is more than she can bear.

With fear snapping at her heels, Rachel keeps moving. From sunrise to sunset, through the cane fields of Barbados to the forests of British Guiana and on to Trinidad, to the dangerous river and the open sea.

Only once she knows their stories can she rest. Only then can she finally find home.

Inspired by the women who, in the aftermath of slavery, went in search of their lost children.


River Sing Me Home is the moving story of a former slave who sets out to find the children stolen from her by masters. It is both heartbreaking and healing, with a story set around a women who in seeking to find her children and it explores what freedom means for her and the children she is searching for. It is not about tidy endings, but about the reality of life for former slaves in the months and years after this abhorrent trade was outlawed.

Until I read this novel, I had no idea of the quests former slaves made to find their missing children. The result for me being that River Sing Me Home felt like a odyssey I was taking with Rachel, the writing speaking to my ignorance and the resulting emotional connection felt all the more poignant. It was an utterly compelling read and emotionally I felt Rachel was speaking to me from the past, acting as a voice for all those lost to history, but now reclaiming their stories. It is a delicate balancing act for any writer, to write about a historical period, without overwhelming it with modern assumptions and inaccurate story telling. But Eleanor Shearer handles it with great skill, she focuses on Rachel’s drive not only to find her children, but also how their lives mean that her dream of reuniting the family has the possibility of being both joyful, but also heart-breaking for all concerned. To have made it too positive, would have been a betrayal of Rachel and the tragedy of her story.

All stories need some drama to keep us invested, this is a fictional tale and not a piece of non-fiction, so the writer cleverly draws on the greed of plantation owners and their desperation not to lose their workers, by imposing a system of slavery in all but name, indentured servitude, to create the threat to her life and freedom that left me on edge throughout. The drama coming from the real fear that as she travels across Barbados, Trinidad and British Guiana, she must avoid the violence of men who in their desperation, are all to willing to use the treat of violence and death if need be. It means the story has drama, drama that kept me on the edge of what felt like a precipice that could engulf Rachel at any point. I desperately wanted her to succeed, to complete the task she has set herself, to find not only her children, but peace for herself. Right until the last page, I knew this was under threat and it lifted River Sing Me Home from being a simple, but beautiful historical drama, into something far more complex, a fight for justice and survival, love and empowerment.

River Sing Me Home is truly a debut that speaks of a bright future for Eleanor Shearer.

You can buy this novel from Amazon and Waterstones

About the author

Eleanor Shearer is a mixed race writer from the UK. She splits her time between London and Ramsgate on the coast of Kent, so that she never has to go too long without seeing the sea.

As the granddaughter of Caribbean immigrants who came to the UK as part of the Windrush Generation, Eleanor has always been drawn to Caribbean history. Her first novel, RIVER SING ME HOME (Headline, UK & Berkley, USA) is inspired by the true stories of the brave woman who went looking for their stolen children after the abolition of slavery in 1834.

The novel draws on her time spent in the Caribbean, visiting family in St Lucia and Barbados. It was also informed by her Master’s degree in Politics, where she focused on how slavery is remembered on the islands today. She travelled to the Caribbean and interviewed activists, historians and family members, and their reflections on what it really means to be free made her more determined than ever to bring the hidden stories of slavery to light.

You can follow the author on Twitter


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