Nubian Circle Book Club

Who We Are
NCBC Guidelines
NCBC Calendar
NCBC Book Reviews
What We've Read (2001-Present)
Fragments of the Ark Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

Fragments of the Ark is a novel that reminded me of the subject matter I had seen in the movies "Glory" and "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman".  Only this time, the author educates and enlightens the reader through the eyes of the lead character, Peter Mango.  We journey from the Civil War Army and Navy skirmishes along coastal South Carolina to the political battles waged in the White House.  The uniqueness of the tale is it is told from the African-American point of view and the author does a good job sticking to the facts and of divulging how former slaves and freedmen fought for their rights and freedom during a very tumultuous time. 

The story opens with Mango, a riverboat pilot forced into service by the Confederate Navy, orchestrating a nighttime flight to freedom by impersonating the Captain of the Confederate gunboat and taking the slave crew and their families to freedom by surrendering the ship to the Union Navy.   He becomes a war hero and serves with the Union eventually being promoted to Captain of the stolen ship.  His adventures are shared and history is told with a colorful cast of charactersall of whom are virtually in the same situation but each individual deals uniquely with their emotions when human issues such as separation from family; reclamation of lost family; freedom from slavery; fear of recapture and return to slavery, the legacy of master/slave relationships, etc. surface throughout the novel.  We also see Mango and the cast dealing with the confusion and unfairness of the Confederate and Union governments fluctuating policies and ordinances of the era.  Meriwether expertly conveys the realism and anguish that the African Americans of the time must have felt as a result of the attitude and treatment toward black soldiers, Lincoln's positions regarding the slaves, and the politics of the antebellum South that severely disenfranchised former slaves. 

The author does not sugar-coat the atrocities of war and the inhumanity of slavery, instead she recounts documented history in such a way that the reader feels the fear that stems from the uncertainty, hatred, and anxiety of the slave characters environment.  Laced with historical accounts, the novel substantiates the important role the black soldiers played in the Civil War and in American History.  The reader also lifts from the pages the resolve and determination of an oppressed people--people who were tired of being abused, people who embraced freedom, people who were determined to prove their worth, people who sought justice and equality, and people who were willing to die to obtain it.  

I enjoyed this book because it was first and foremost educational.  It is saturated with actual historical events that can be researched further if one is interested.  The book loses points in that it is a very slow start, climaxes quickly, and the ending was not what I expected.  It seemed like there might be a follow-up novel.  There were also some slow periods in the novel where I also found myself wanting to skip ahead to finish quickly (not a good sign)but I restrained myself in order to give the book and author a fair assessment.

I would recommend this book to young adults and African American/Civil War history buffs. It was an informative read that can be enjoyed by mature teenagers who want to learn about the African American struggle and accomplishments in the face of adversity.

The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for Fragments of the Ark is 2.75 Stars.