The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock

The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock

Obsession with perspective, I have it. I’m always looking for new and different angles that present a story with fresh (to me) eyes. Nancy Peacock has created such a story with this new release, from the perspective of a former slave as he retells his story as he waits for his execution.  Please read on for my review and an excerpt from

The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson

As he waits for his execution, Persimmon Wilson is determined to share his story: he’s far more than the names currently used to dismiss his being. At the heart, this is a love story, not always between a man and woman, but of a man with the life he has lived, and the country he hopes will be better when he’s gone.

Sold by his owner in Virginia to a sugar-cane plantation in Louisiana, owned by Wilson, Persy first meets the woman of his dreams, Chloe. But this is no simple story, they are owned and in no way in charge of their own destiny. A fact repeated often in the actions of Wilson, spurred on by fear and greed.  Persy retells his story in chronological order: it’s easy to follow along as event A leads to B and so on. What makes the story relevant is the pain beneath the words, and Persy’s absolute tone of hopelessness as horrific event after event is recalled: with descriptions that bring instant pictures to mind, as the time is instantly accessible.

While often stories of the Civil War focus on the changes to the ‘southern way of life’, the loss of life and emancipation. But what Peacock does that surprised (effectively) is add additional moments with other groups who were effected (positively and negatively) by these changes, the migrations westward to avoid the grasp of the Union army and the anti-slavery laws.  The Comanche and other aboriginal tribes – brutally pushed westward away from land and places they’ve known for millennia. The insertion of their reactions, the persecution and even Persy’s acceptance into the tribes and this juxtaposition of refined versus savage.

A slow ride from the external belief that Persy is a thing that is owned for a purpose, to his own realization of his personhood just as his existence is to end hanging from a noose, the story is rich and evocative, bringing into sharp relief the ability of humans to behave in reprehensible ways toward those viewed as “less than” or “different”, all in attempts to serve their own ends for success, power or superiority.

The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson by Nancy Peacock

Title: The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson
Author: Nancy Peacock
Genre: African-American, American, Civil War Era, Historic Elements, Literary Fiction, Southern
Published by: Atria Books
ISBN: 0988416433
Published on: 1 January 2017
Format:eARC
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Pages: 331
Audio Length: 12 Hours: 37 minutes
Rated: four-stars
Get Your Copy: Amazon Barnes&Noble iTunes Kobo IndieBound Google
See this Title on Goodreads

1875: Drunken Bride, Texas.

An ex-slave named Persimmon Wilson awaits his hanging for the murder of the man who once owned him. As he waits, he pens his story.

The journey of Persimmon Wilson takes the reader from the brutality of slavery on a Louisiana sugar plantation to a ranch on the Texas frontier to life among the Comanche Indians.

All through his travels, Persimmon Wilson seeks the one person he loves, a light-skinned house slave named Chloe. When he finds her, she is passing for white and is the wife of their former master.

A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

 

Read an Excerpt

 

April 1, 1875 Drunken Bride, Texas

I have been to hangings before, but never my own. Still it should be some comfort to me, that except for the noose around my neck, and the drop that will take my life, I know exactly what to expect two days hence. I know there will be a crowd like there always is at a hanging; picnics, baskets lined with checkered cloths, the smell of fried chicken, and the noise of children. There will be, like there always is, a preacher, and a group of white women dressed in black, singing me to their god.

I expect the day of my execution to be a beautiful day. It hasn’t rained lately, but that could change. Some old Indian could show up, do a rain dance, and the whole thing might be postponed. I doubt it though. I’ve never seen a hanging rained out. It seems to me like the white god smiles on a hanging, just like he smiles on making money.

There will be plenty of opportunity for making money on the day of my death. Merchants selling warmish lemonade by the dipperful from a barrel, food for those who didn’t bring their own, slices of pie and cake for dessert, trinkets to commemorate my demise. And there should be, I hope, at least one industri­ous young boy out in the crowd, hawking souvenirs, competing with the adults’ business, selling miniature nooses with my name written across them.

I saw those little nooses when I was just a boy, at the hanging of a man named One-Eyed Jim. Jim was a slave who killed his overseer in the middle of the night while the man slept. Jim used a shovelhead and his bare hands, and rumor had it that he killed the very man who took his eye out. I was nine, maybe ten years old, the day Jim got hung, and a slave myself, owned then by a man named Roland Surley.

I was brought along that day to help out Surley’s lady friend, Miss Fannie Sims, with the picnic. I was there to carry the bas­ket, spread the quilt, fetch things, and if she got too hot, whisk a big fan back and forth to cool her. I saw the white boys wind­ing their way through the crowd calling out, “Nooses. Get your souvenir nooses right here.” Roland Surley flagged them down and bought a little noose to give to Miss Fannie, but she thought it was maudlin and refused to accept it, so he flipped it to me. “Here, Persy, I reckon it’s yours.” A little noose with the name One-Eyed Jim written in lumpy ink letters across the rope, a me­mento of that day that I have kept all the rest of my life. It’s dirty and grimy now, and the letters are faded away, but all the same I keep it.

I’m picturing those little nooses at my hanging, and the little white hands that ought to be making them. Maybe two boys working on it together, debating which of my names to use, then ending the argument by making some of each. I figure on at least a dozen with my slave name, Persimmon Wilson, and another dozen with the translation of my Comanche name, Twist Rope. Kweepoonaduh Tuhmoo.

 

About Nancy Peacock

Nancy Peacock is the author of the novels Life Without Water and Home Across the Road, as well as the memoir, A Broom of One’s Own: Words on Writing, Housecleaning, and Life. She currently teaches writing classes and workshops in and around Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband Ben.

 

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