Cunningham laces the novel with a multitude of biblical references, beginning with the first name of the main protagonist, Gideon, and story elements that will appeal to readers of faith, such as the subplot regarding Gideon’s friends and neighbors trying to get him back into the fold of church. The intense thematic references to religion and good versus evil work well with the plotline, and Cunningham faces the era’s true darkness: while Elvira is portrayed as being very beautiful, her beauty includes a dark side, embodied by her brutality towards the family slaves.
The heart of the storyline, though, focuses on the intense horse racing competition between the turfmen and the landed gentry’s devotion to horse racing, especially as Gideon and Sam search for the killer of the Quarles’ former champion racehorse. Alive with vivid historical detail surrounding jockey club dinners and balls during the racing season, Cunningham’s novel also highlights the dangers inherent in the Underground Railroad for both slaves and abolitionists.
Takeaway: An inspirational historical novel of faith, freedom, and horse racing in old Alabama.
Comparable Titles: Geraldine Brooks’s Horse, Katherine C. Mooney’s Race Horse Men: How Slavery and Freedom Were Made at the Racetrack.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A