Historical fiction tells accurate, familiar Lowcountry story

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"Swift Currents" is a historical fiction work, the first of two by Lowcountry author David Bruce Grim, who lives in the Lowcountry on a barrier island.

Perhaps Grim walks the same ground as did the characters in this fascinating tale. The reader will learn about the Gullah people and their culture, and how they lived in bondage before the changes brought about by the Civil War.

Their strong faith and amazing resilience were key to the role they played in the securing of their own freedom and in the Reconstructive Era that followed.

This novel is an accurate account of the years from 1861 to 1863, when the bulk of the action and interaction took place along the sea islands of South Carolina. Well-known Civil War heroes including Harriet Tubman, Clara Barton, Laura Towne and Thomas Wentworth Higginson were integral to the organization of people and resources in the areas impacted by the war and brought considerable power to the cause of lifting up the freedmen and women.

Most impressive, though, are the fictional characters the author has created and placed in this setting, based on slaves on the plantations of coastal South Carolina. The story is told from the perspective of a young mother, Callie, who is owned by the cruel master of Oakheart Plantation.

The reality of the everyday struggles and horrors this woman faced will both sadden the reader and fill one's heart with admiration and respect. In spite of being forced to work from sun up to sun down, and subjected to cruel punishment with no access to education, health care or freedom to make choices, these people, once freed, moved forward courageously, determined to improve their life and the lives of their children.

South Carolinians will be pulled in from the start of this well-written and impeccably researched book. The familiarity of the islands and creeks as well as some of the structures of the area make for an interesting read and should draw more people to visit these historic places.

For example, the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, just five miles east of Beaufort, is where the Brick Church was located, housing the first school for freed slaves with 80 students enrolled in 1862.

Later, a larger school was built for the instruction of freed slaves and named The Penn School. In 1950, it became the Penn Center, as it is known today.

Robert Smalls Parkway, a five-mile section of Highway 170, is named for an extraordinary escaped slave and Civil War hero, whose story is a book in itself.

Dialogue sections of this book are written as the Gullah language is spoken and give an authentic feel to the story: One can "hear" how they must have sounded.

The author encourages readers' comments and questions about this book. Contact him at swiftcurrents1861@gmail.com.

Glenda Harris of Bluffton is a freelance writer and editor, nature lover and aspiring novelist.

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