Monday, April 22, 2024

All We were Promised by Ashton Lattimore

Rating: 4.5 of 5 stars 
Pages: 368 pages
Published: April 2024

All We Were Promised is the debut historical fiction novel by Ashton Lattimore, an award-winning journalist and former lawyer. The book is set during the pre-Civil War era in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and features three female protagonists serving as soldiers for justice: Charlotte, who has escaped slavery with her father, who is hiding in plain sight while his daughter poses as his housemaid; Nell, a well-to-do aspiring abolitionist; and Evie, a freedom-seeking friend from the plantation that Charlotte and her father absconded. All three of these characters' lives collide in Philadelphia where they help each other to make the ideal of freedom a reality because none of us are free unless we are all free (Fannie Lou Hamer). 

The premise of the story is not new. There have been many non-fiction and fiction stories that covered the topic of Black people who knew they did not belong to anyone and fought for something different. Additionally, the phenomenon of passing (e.g., Imitation of Life, Did You Hear about Kitty Karr, and Passing, etc.) is touched on with the relationship between Charlotte and her father. But overall this books is about American's greatest ill - its participation in the transatlantic slave trade. Do we need another book about slavery? Yes, let us continue to tell the stories and learn from history lest we repeat them, especially in today's society when the historical facts are being skewed to pacify those who cannot accept the atrocities that occurred in these United States of America. 

I truly enjoyed reading this story. I think the author did a wonderful job with portraying the horrendous acts of one group of people treating another group of people as property without being overly graphic. Her research into the actual, historical event of the burning of Pennsylvania Hall within days of its grand opening was not only handled well, but was so compelling it enticed me to seek out more about this true event. Lattimore also did a great job of created in-depth characters in Charlotte, Nell, and Evie. She also presented Charlotte's father in such a way that I was truly angry with this fictional character. To me, he was simply a slavemaster of another kind. When a book evokes emotion and provokes action, I tend to label it a good one. 

My only critique was the lack of development of some of the secondary characters and plots - like that of the relationship between Alex and Nell. I would have loved to know more about the Darcel, who befriended Charlotte as well as Irene and Daniel, who she left behind at the plantation and were mentioned by name several times throughout the book but had no fleshed-out back story development. 

Recommendation: This novel had strong themes of justice, grief, and belonging. The ending was a little abrupt, and I feel like there could have been so much more to it. My hope is that Lattimore writes a sequel to All We Were Promised because there are so many promises unfulfilled in this first writing. If she does write a follow-up story, I'll be first in line to get a copy. 

Until next time ... Read on!

Regardless of whether I purchase a book, borrow a book, or receive a book in exchange for review, my ultimate goal is to be honest, fair, and constructive. I hope you've found this review helpful.


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