Book Review: A More Perfect Union

The review below is one I did for Historical Novels Review, the magazine of the Historical Novel Society. This book just ripped my heart out. I saw it was classified as a romance, but it’s way more than that. It’s richly layered, deeply personal, extremely important historical fiction. This was an editor’s choice in the February 2022 edition of Historical Novels Review.

Henry O’Toole escapes the Irish potato famine of 1848 and comes to America, unprepared for the hatred against the Irish that greets him in New York. Changing his name to Henry Taylor, he eventually becomes a traveling blacksmith in Virginia, where he meets Sarah, who is enslaved on the Jubilee plantation. When they fall in love, an uphill battle awaits them as interracial marriage is illegal and considered immoral at that time. Also on the plantation is the enslaved Maple, who is actually the half-sister of the mistress of the house. Maple has been forcibly separated from her husband and child in order to serve her sister. Based on the story of the author’s own great-great grandparents, this is a novel that will captivate, shock, and yes, enrage the reader.

What a stunning debut novel by Tammye Huf! The extreme injustice of the time is so well portrayed that it had me in tears. The beautiful love story of Henry and Sarah is made all the better knowing that this is based on a true story. The chapters are divided into multiple points of view, which makes for a compelling read. The author does not hold back in portraying the evil of one man owning another, and the depraved reality of the lashes, neck rings, slave markets, and chains is brought forth for all to see. The truth about the so-called respectable men and women of that era is sobering, but the lights of hope woven into this story are shown in Henry, Sarah, and others who are willing to take risks in order to help. A More Perfect Union is a love story, but also a shocking and heart-rending look at the realities of slavery. It is a must-read for those who want to know the truth about the pre-Civil War South.


Tammye Huf

(In her own words) Originally from the east and west coast of the USA, I have lived in the UK with my husband and three kids for the last twenty years. I love nothing more than to immerse myself into new places and experiences, and I love the way that books allow me to do that, traveling the globe or even back in time with the turn of a page.

Since earning my BA from Wellesley College, I have been a teacher of various ages and abilities as well as a copywriter and a translator. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing my short stories published in several literary magazines and being named the third-place winner of the London Magazine Short Story Prize 2018. My debut novel, A More Perfect Union, was published in the UK in October 2020 with Myriad Editions and will be published in the USA in January 2022 with Grand Central Publishing. 



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