The Freedom of the Soul is Tracey Bateman’s second book in the Penbrook Diaries. It follows The Color of the Soul, which introduces the series’ characters. Color tells the story of a black newspaper reporter, Andy Carmichael, and his struggle to lead a life of hope and dignity, while safeguarding his young family from the inhumanities foisted on black families living in pre-Civil Rights Georgia.
In The Freedom of the Soul, Bateman probes the dynamics of human relationships between black and white Georgia, during the height of Jim Crow excesses. Carmichael returns to Oak Junction to cover the trial of a powerful state senator’s son, Sam Dane, Jr. Dane is accused of ordering the Klan-murder of an interracial couple; the young woman was Carmichael’s niece.
Underscoring these incendiary events, all characters are acutely mindful of the familial ties between the Carmichaels and Danes: Sen. Dane is Andy Carmichael’s biological father. One hundred years after freedom, black and white descendents of Penbrook plantation have inherited the consequences of their ancestors’ selfish passions — as well as their sacrificial love — woven between the barriers of slavery, fear, and racial hatred.
Meanwhile, out in Oregon, Shea Penbrook attends her grandfather’s funeral. Alone, she returns to the dilapidated farm house she’d shared with him – her last living relative. While rummaging through boxes in the attic, Shea discovers her family’s secret, buried for more than a 100 years in the pages of diaries written at Penbrook plantation by her great-great-grandfather. She decides to return to Georgia in search of love, family, and acceptance.
Tracey Bateman is more than an historical romance novelist. She tackles honestly the uncomfortable issue of race relations of the recent past, relations that in some communities may not be the past at all. Bateman writes about the harsh judgment experienced by those who dared to cross society's racial taboos, judgment meted out by those who categorize human hearts along racial lines.
Bateman weaves her story seamlessly, as characters in the 1840s live out their lives on the pages of Freedom, alongside but never intruding, as the 1940s characters describe the awful price exacted on innocent lives for the sins of selfish, hate-filled men and women.
On a lighter note, Bateman hooked me with her "Dear Readers" introduction letter to Freedom, where she tells of an ancestor who ran away to Mexico to marry a young slave woman who'd nursed him back to health. Readers, like me, who enjoy historical romance novels written from a Christian perspective will love the Penbrook Diaries. I highly recommend both novels.