At the tender age of eight, Lowry Rankin experiences the horror of slavery firsthand when he witnesses the beating of his best friend by a stranger who hates abolitionists like Lowry’s father John Rankin. He hadn’t known such cruelty existed in the world and wants only to run far away from it. Soon after that event, his father moves their family to Ripley, Ohio. However, instead of making his escape, Lowry discovers that he has landed right in the middle of the conflict—because his new home is an important stop along the Underground Railroad.
Against this abolitionist era backdrop, Lowry’s entire coming of age story plays out–his boyhood struggles with shyness, bullies, and first love, his increasing awareness of the far-reaching evils of slavery, his stubborn refusal to follow in his father’s footsteps, and his realization that God has been preparing him for a special ministry all along.
Across the Wide River by Stephanie Reed is geared toward young readers and is written simply enough to appeal to a wide age range. The book immerses you in the time period as it leads you from one of Lowry’s adventures to another. The author creates an absorbing picture of how a faith-filled family would deal with the dangers, successes, and responsibilities of working at an abolitionist hot spot.
This book has a great historical tie-in because it’s based on the life of a real family. John Rankin was an active conductor on the Underground Railroad and his writings have been noted as having influenced abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher, and Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin). From 1825 to 1865, John Rankin and his wife Jean, along with their Brown County neighbors, aided more than 2,000 slaves escaping to freedom, sometimes having as many as 12 escapees hidden in the Rankin home at one time.
Rankin’s house became a beacon that attracted slaves escaping across the Ohio River. At night a lantern would be raised to the top of a 30′ tall flag pole in his front yard. This was a signal to the runaway slaves that it was safe to cross and that there would be people waiting to help them. Follow this link to read about touring the Rankin House.
I believe God puts each one of us in a certain place and time period in order to carry out His work. I appreciate how the Rankin family embraced their purpose and saved so many lives. Thanks to author Stephanie Reed for sharing their story.
I’d put this book high on the list of recommended reading for young people. It would also make a great addition to a homeschooling curriculum!
Follow this link to purchase a copy of Across the Wide River. And you can read more about the Rankin family with the sequel, The Light Across the River.
You can find the author, Stephanie Reed, at this link. She has a colorful, easy-to-use website.
***Thanks to the folks at Kregel for providing a copy of the book for me to review!