Canaan's Tongue

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Alfred A. Knopf, 2005 - Fiction - 341 pages
2 Reviews
From the acclaimed and prizewinning author of "The Right Hand of Sleep" ("Brilliant . . . A truly arresting work"--"The New York Times Book Review"), an explosive allegorical novel set on the eve of the Civil War, about a gang of men hunted by both the Union and the Confederacy for dealing in stolen slaves.
Geburah Plantation, 1863: in a crumbling estate on the banks of the Mississippi, eight survivors of the notorious Island 37 Gang wait for the war, or the Pinkerton Detective Agency, to claim them. Their leader, a bizarre charismatic known only as "the Redeemer," has already been brought to justice, and each day brings the battling armies closer. The hatred these men feel for one another is surpassed only by their fear of their many pursuers. Into this hell comes a mysterious force, an "avenging angel" that compels them, one by one, to a reckoning of their many sins.
"Canaan's Tongue" is rooted in the criminal world of John Murrell, as infamous in his day as Jesse James or Al Capone. It tells the story of his reluctant protege, Virgil Ball, who derives riches, sexual privilege, and power from the commerce in stolen slaves, known only as "the Trade"--and discovers, when he finally decides to free himself from the Redeemer's yoke, that the force he is challenging is far more formidable than he imagined. It is as old as the river, as vast as the country itself, and it is with us to this day.
"Canaan's Tongue" is a work of extraordinary narrative and emotional power.

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mikemillertime - LibraryThing

The book's premise is the best part of this greatly-flawed novel: a band of rogues simultaneously free and resell slaves during the outbreak of the Civil War, playing against both forces of North and ... Read full review


User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

A plot to resell escaped slaves and the wisdom of the kabala are ingeniously linked, in Whiting Award winner Wray's ambitious successor to his superb debut (The Right Hand of Sleep, 2001).Its shaping ... Read full review

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About the author (2005)

John Wray lives in Brooklyn.

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