Drama, Historical fiction

Freedman/Johnson #1,#2 #3 by Laila Ibrahim

Narrated by: Bahni Turpin

I listened to the first book in the series a while before I started on the next. Every time I finished one and was about to write a review, I realised there was another release in the series and thought it would make sense to review them altogether.

As their titles indicate, all three books in the series do a perfect job of using the symbolism of flowers/seeds to show the passage of life, growth, and any other lesson we can draw from nature, including but not limited to resilience.

1# Yellow Crocus

Yellow Crocus cover art


The first book is the most intricate of the lot, at least in my opinion. It shows us the norms of the lives of slaves on a tobacco plantation. The entire book by itself, even without the sequels, reads(or listens) like a saga. We see the birth of Lisbeth and the subsequent confusion of her mother to play the role. The bad advice the mother is given in the ‘right’ way to bond with her baby does not help matters. Enter Mattie, who is supposed to be nursing her own boy but ends up torn between her new role and the old. As Lisbeth grows up, she is moulded both by the heart that Mattie poured into her as well as what society dictated around them. It is not easy to watch the events unfold. There are many years written into the pages, and change is shown to be arriving in the future, but as we well know, that is not to be the case. Although the ending is bittersweet, with more sweet than bitter, I was glad to pick the next book up after this.
Faith is mentioned as a support system here but does not dominate the conversation. The civil war is yet to happen, and the unrest and political complications are not discussed at length, making this the easiest of the three to appeal to a non-US resident.

2 # Mustard Seed

Mustard Seed cover art

The second story jumps a few years ahead to when Lisbeth has her own small family and Mattie’s children have grown. Their paths rarely cross for the sake of safety when different reasons lure both families back to where it all began.
This is the most nail-biting instalment of the three, with people risking their lives at every turn. We see each character being put to the test and watching how they battle their own inertia and whatever prejudices or beliefs they may have. The civil war has left an ugly scar in the country, and this is a fierce look at the difference between saying a problem has been solved and those who have to actually face the brunt of being in the cross-hairs of disgruntled and embarrassed people who fought for the south.
There are no time jumps in this visit, but many secrets are finally revealed and some relationships put to rest.

3# Golden Poppies

Golden Poppies cover art

The final instalment focuses on the next generation. The people we have come to know have come a long way both metaphorically and actually from where everyone began. Some things are slow to change, and racial inequality is the most discussed topic here, second to the conversations of faith and God. In the previous books, obviously due to the horrors and troubles of their lives, people spoke of the only way they kept going, but here the conversations in the first half of the book were almost singularly about their faith and its practice. I almost considered giving up because such a narrative tone is not something I really enjoy. I am glad I kept going, though. The second half of the book looked at a lot of different aspects of the life of the time, examining it from different angles and giving us a more comprehensive picture of all the people who called California home in the late 1800s.
By the time the book ended and the author’s afterword was narrated, I really appreciated the overall book and the decent sense of closure I got from it.

2 thoughts on “Freedman/Johnson #1,#2 #3 by Laila Ibrahim”

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