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The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson: A Novel
by Nancy Peacock

Published: 2017-01-17
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For fans of Cold Mountain and The Invention of Wings comes “a tour de force of historical fiction” (Henry Wiencek, author of Master of the Mountain) that follows the epic journey of a slave-turned-Comanche warrior who travels from the brutality of a New Orleans sugar cane plantation ...
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Introduction

For fans of Cold Mountain and The Invention of Wings comes “a tour de force of historical fiction” (Henry Wiencek, author of Master of the Mountain) that follows the epic journey of a slave-turned-Comanche warrior who travels from the brutality of a New Orleans sugar cane plantation to the indomitable frontier of an untamed Texas, searching not only for the woman he loves but so too for his own identity.

I have been to hangings before, but never my own.

Sitting in a jail cell on the eve of his hanging, April 1, 1875, freedman Persimmon “Persy” Wilson wants nothing more than to leave some record of the truth—his truth. He may be guilty, but not of what he stands accused: the kidnapping and rape of his former master’s wife.

In 1860, Persy had been sold to Sweetmore, a Louisiana sugar plantation, alongside a striking, light-skinned house slave named Chloe. Their deep and instant connection fueled a love affair and inspired plans to escape their owner, Master Wilson, who claimed Chloe as his concubine. But on the eve of the Union Army’s attack on New Orleans, Wilson shot Persy, leaving him for dead, and fled with Chloe and his other slaves to Texas. So began Persy’s journey across the frontier, determined to reunite with his lost love. Along the way, he would be captured by the Comanche, his only chance of survival to prove himself fierce and unbreakable enough to become a warrior. His odyssey of warfare, heartbreak, unlikely friendships, and newfound family would change the very core of his identity and teach him the meaning and the price of freedom.

From the author of the New York Times Notable Book Life Without Water, The Life and Times of Persimmon Wilson is a sweeping love story that “is as deeply moving and exciting an American saga as has ever been penned” (Lee Smith, author of Dimestore).

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Excerpt

We were marched through the streets and then locked into a yard surrounded by walls twice my height, and stinking of sweat and human waste. On the other side of the walls we could hear conversations, shouts, and the whistles of steamboats along the river. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1) While on Sweetmore Plantation, Chloe begs Persy to help her escape, yet he is hesitant. Do you think his reluctance is realistic or cowardly?

2) What do you think the likelihood of their escape being successful would have been?

3) Besides Master Wilson and Holmes with their whips and possibly dogs, what were the binds that held them in slavery?
4) Chloe is always presented through Persy’s eyes, or as he believes other men see her. In this way she is never allowed to represent herself. Do you think Persy’s portrait of Chloe is accurate?

5) At the Double H Ranch Persy witnesses Mo Tilly killing Miss Doreen. It is Miss Doreen’s death that finally sets Sedge free. Do you think this was cold ruthlessness on Mo Tilly’s part, or is it a kindness extended toward Sedge?

6) Throughout the book, Persy moves from victim to a man of violence. Does he remain a sympathetic character to you through this evolution?

7) When Persy is captured by the Comanche, they treat him badly, yet later he is accepted into the tribe. How is it that Persy was able to forgive the Comanche their treatment of him, yet never able to forgive Master Wilson?

8) Persy moves from the culture of slavery to the culture of being in the U.S. Military to the culture of being a freedman to the culture of the Comanche. How do you think his behavior was influenced by each of these cultures? Do you think the behaviors of Master Wilson and Holmes were influenced by the culture in which they lived? What parts of Persy’s character remain constant regardless of the culture he lives in?

9) The tribe Persy lives with is surprised in two different attacks by the U.S. Military. These battles are historically accurate. Did you find it difficult to believe that the Comanche would be surprised in such a way? If so, where do you think this belief came from?
10) If Persy had never found Chloe, do you think he would have escaped Palo Duro Canyon during the final raid? And what do you think became of those that did escape? How were their lives changed?

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