Fragments of the Ark

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

FRAGMENTS OF THE ARK is an exciting historical novel that describes the adventures of a group of runaway slaves who not only find freedom but also help to liberate the South as heroes in the Civil War. The central figure is Peter Mango, who steals the Confederate gunboat SWANEE and delivers it to the Union naval blockade at Charleston, South Carolina. A talented sea captain, Peter pilots various Union ships along the Sea Island coast of South Carolina for the duration of the war. Yet all is not smooth sailing: Several of his Gullah friends who have also sought freedom are killed in various battles, and Peter’s marriage to the troubled Rain is not without its persistent tensions. In the end, however, Peter and his family are living free in Beaufort, where he has been elected as a delegate to the Freedman’s Convention in Charleston.

The novel is full of history, as Peter and other characters interact with the historical figures— General William Tecumseh Sherman, Harriet Tubman—of the 1860’s; Peter even gets to meet Abraham Lincoln not long before his assassination. Much of the historical information, however, is awkwardly forced into the narrative through newspaper accounts and letters. In fact, FRAGMENTS OF THE ARK would probably work best as a novel for adolescent readers, who would be captured by the romantic plot and educated by all the historical information, especially by the important role that African Americans played in their own liberation. Adult readers, however, may find the contemporary slang and the authorial editorializing a little too unrealistic for their taste.