John (Marsden) Ehle (Jr.) Publishers Weekly - Essay

Publishers Weekly

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

["The Journey of August King"] is a tender, moving, but wholly unsentimental story that comes across like a classic folk tale. The simple but engrossing story revolves around a pious 19th century North Carolina farmer (middle-aged) named August King and a 15-year-old runaway slave girl, Annalees Williamsburg…. King is a simple, unimaginative man, not adventuresome, yet something in him longs to help the girl and he continues to do so, even though he is becoming more and more frightened, especially after he meets the girl's brutal owner. Gradually, rumors build that he is helping her and the suspense mounts. While all this is going on, August is tormented by doubts about his motives: is he doing it because of a sexual attraction towards the girl, or to atone in some way for negligence towards his dead wife? The conclusion is not only satisfying but uplifting, in a healthy, old-fashioned way. The novel is full of poetry and beauty in the style of its telling. It is also a brutal tale about human nature at its worst, and in August's case, at its best.

A review of "The Journey of August King," in Publishers Weekly (reprinted from the August 9, 1971 issue of Publishers Weekly, published by R. R. Bowker Company, a Xerox company; copyright © 1971 by Xerox Corporation), Vol. 200, No. 6, August 9, 1971, p. 40.