Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Call of Zulina by Kay Marshall Strom - MY REVIEW

Slavery. This is not a topic easily approached by anyone in any time period. Kay Marshall Strom’s latest book, The Call of Zulina, deals with this topic from a very unique and difficult point of view – that of Grace Winslow, daughter of an English sea captain dealing in slaves, and his wife, an African Queen. This sounds unlikely to some, perhaps, but in the late 1700’s this was not only likely, it was reality. Of course Kay Strom’s book is fictional, but it portrays a reality that makes most of us very uncomfortable.

Grace Winslow is a woman whose skin color places her in the netherworld of not belonging to any one race. While this wouldn’t necessarily be problematic in the twenty-first century, it was a nightmare in the late 1700’s, especially when your father made his living by capturing and selling slaves. Grace understands that her parents are eager to marry her off to a wealthy English land-owner, but she is headstrong enough to pursue life on her own terms. Her greatest and fiercest obstacle proves to be her own mother, an African princess whose marriage to a white English slave-trader is a horrific anathema. When Grace decides to go beyond the reaches of her “English” home, she finds herself in circumstances more terrifying and hellish than her mind can comprehend. However, what she faces changes her life forever.

Through the characters of this novel, Kay Marshall Strom examines slavery from every angle. The reader is made to understand everything from the capture and animalistic treatment of the slaves to the obscene hunger for power and control of the slave traders. She even explores the viewpoint of an African princess who, although married to a wealthy sea captain, is as much a slave as those helpless souls chained in the holds of her husband’s ships. The story is often disturbing, but it serves as a poignant reminder that freedom is bought with a price, and sometimes it costs us everything.

I wasn’t sure about this book when I first began reading. I was a little uncertain about the author’s direction in the story. However, knowing that this is the first story in a trilogy, I kept reading, and I’m so glad I did! The ending of the novel is the perfect setting for future stories, and Grace Winslow’s strong character demands further exploration. I won’t disguise the difficulty of the subject matter – it’s not pleasant. Yet what the reader learns about slavery, true slavery, makes for a satisfying and challenging read. Please look here for an opportunity to read the first chapter of The Call of Zulina and learn more about this author.


Of Kay's 34 published books, four have been book club selections, nine have been translated into foreign languages, and one has been optioned for a movie. Her writing credits also include numerou s magazine articles, short stories, two prize-winning screenplays, books and stories for children, and booklets for writers. Her writing has appeared in several volumes including More Than Conquerors, Amazing Love, The NIV Couple's Devotional Bible and The NIV Women's Devotional Bible, and The Bible for Today's Christian Woman. Her work also is included in a number of compilations, including various books from the Stories for the Heart series.

Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writer's conferences, and special events throughout the country. In addition, more and more her writing and speaking are drawing her to countries and cultures around the world. Most recently she trekked through India, China, Indonesia, Sudan, Morocco, and Senegal - tape recorder and camera in hand - preparing to tell “the rest of the story” of our donor dollars at work in the lives of individuals and villages around the world.

Kay is a partner in Kline, Strom International, Inc., leaders in communication training.

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