When I began reading Heaven’s Daughter, I found myself immediately held spellbound. The story begins with two runaway slaves, who are mother and daughter. Having been captured in Africa, taken away from her family and her fiancé, the mother is desperate to give her daughter, Effie, a better life. Since they are both slaves, this is difficult to do. As the daughter begins to suffer the same horrible abuses that her mother did, from their owners, they both know that they have to escape.
As they begin the arduous journey north, they encounter a young blonde girl named Abby. Abby is also on the run, but in her case she is running from a kidnapper. The kidnapper grabbed her from her family’s home so that he could pretend he was traveling with his daughter, instead of being an army deserter. Fortunately, he did not abuse her.
Joining together to return Abby to her home, the girls develop a strong bond. Effie’s mother shares her African heritage with them with both songs and stories. When they finally make it to Abby’s home the family gives them a warm welcome and is grateful for their assistance in returning their daughter. As time goes by, and they suffer through some horrible tragedies, the bond between the two women becomes even stronger. Knowing that this is a time where both interracial and homosexual relationships are not acceptable, the women have to keep their special love for each other a secret. Their incredible love for each other helps them hang on to their sanity and each other as they try to cope with family losses, betrayal, and tragedy.
Having read and enjoyed Petton's previous book The Queen’s Companion, I suspected that Heaven’s Daughter would be an exceptional book. And I was correct. In this novel, the horrors of slavery, war, prejudice, and discrimination are all brought together. However, love and loyalty demonstrate a great healing power. I also found this story to be extremely realistic and well researched. While I have studied this era and thought about how difficult it would be for people to mix interracially, I never considered what it would be like for homosexual couples.
Petton addresses both issues in one relationship. It was refreshing to be able to enjoy an incredibly written story, and to be offered something new to reflect on. I highly recommend Heaven’s Daughter.
(Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views)