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Foodie Lit
Barbara Bull. Come By Here

Visions of the past intrude upon Katherine MacLeod’s day. She hears conversations and sees people and places from 1855. More than that, she feels the emotions of those she sees, intruding on her dreams and awake times. What is she seeing? Piecing together her dreams and visions, her research and help from her friends, she puts together a story of the Underground Railroad that operated near her house, while connecting the past with the present. 


I asked author Barbara Bull if Katherine had a psychic gift in all the Katherine MacLeod series. “Katherine’s gift of sight developed as the series evolved….As an author, Katherine’s gift allows me to integrate history with present-day life. My goal is to enlighten my readers, as well as entertain.”


Opinions about slavery are an important theme in this novel, revealing the split in the United States during this era, from helping a fellow human being to inaction through fear or even indifference. How the Underground Railroad worked is revealed through the questions of 19th century’s Charlotte, through her “passengers’ ” stories and through the events of the novel.  It is a fascinating history that calls upon us to wonder how we would behave in such times.

Finalist. Regional Fiction. Next Generation Indie Book Awards.

In addition to the rigors of living in mid-19th century rural America, in the years leading up to the Civil War, Charlotte and her family come in contact with those escaping from slavery. Michigan, far from Southern plantations, is on an Underground Railroad route. 


Charlotte’s family does not agree about slavery. Charlotte has no doubts. She not only cares for her Underground Railroad “passengers,” but grows to love and care for them. She teaches them to read and write and accepts them totally.


The author adds a link from past to present when Katherine helps a friend who is trying to trace her family tree back to the times of slavery and is unable to do so because of lack of records. 


We might think this historical novel is about issues that no longer concern us. Tragically,  this is not the case. According to an article in The Guardian (2-25-2019) the numbers of modern slavery, 40.3 million, adds up to more than three times the number of people enslaved, 13 million, during the 15th-19th centuries of the transatlantic slave trade. These statistics include forced labor, forced marriages and child labor and soldiers and sex trafficking.


We need only look to a few months ago when Hamas, notorious for using children and adult civilians as human shields, kidnapped and enslaved 214 Israelis and nationals from 25 different countries, including a 9-month old and his 4-year-old brother. All of the abominations of slavery are here right in our own time. Many remained silent in the years of slavery in the United States, many accepted the status quo, and we see no difference in our own era


Come By Here develops sympathetic characters to put a face on an inhumane condition that has pervaded human history, right up to our own time. We walk in the shoes of those who are escaping slavery, see their anguish, their hopes, their talents and their humanity.


Barbara has done her homework well. She loves researching in libraries, on line and in her own neighborhood. Barbara told me,  “I come from a rural farm background and grew up a few miles from where my ancestors settled in Michigan in the mid-1800s. I know and feel the history of the area. For Come By Here, I set the story in my childhood home….The actual legend that the house was an underground railroad stop came from an elderly neighbor.”


With few neighbors, main character Charlotte and her family needed to be self-reliant, fully prepared for the seasons and to live a life that, like our own, has its difficulties and its joys.  I asked Barbara how she developed characters who themselves were slaves or who helped these individuals to freedom.


“My goal is always to internalize the emotions and the facts of those that did experience what I’m writing about. Then I let my characters talk to me. They all have a voice and a story to tell.”


It is a story worth telling and worth reading.

Planning and hunting for their own food was not easy for Charlotte and her family. They frequently caught fish and made them into  Fresh Fiish Cakes. I made them as she might have (without having fished for them!). Delicious then and today!!

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