The Eulogist is much more than the typical 19th century abolitionist trope.
This is the tumultuous story of an immigrant family of three very different siblings: James, the eldest, a chandler, reliable but unyielding; Olivia, the middle sister, inquisitive and intelligent, but forthright to a fault; and Erasmus, the prodigal, itinerant black sheep, taken in with the charismatic river preachers, who leaves the family to follow his heart, often with his priorities askew.
All three siblings clash and reunite out of devotion to a common cause. The book follows this family and their hopes and tragedies through most of the 19th century, exploring the immigrant experience during the dynamic upheaval of a developing nation. The Eulogist presents the moral indignation of slavery felt by many during this time, but also shows the reader a more realistic spectrum of abolitionism, from mild disapproval to vehement activism.
The Eulogist is a comprehensive story of a family, with nuanced detail that enhances the energy of bustling 19th century America. The story is well told, full of twists and revelations, and I tore through it in a matter of days. Gamble’s attention to detail is above reproach, and her characterizations are perceptive without being sentimental.
This is historical fiction at its best.
Many thanks to William Morrow Books (Harper Collins) for the advance copy in exchange for my review. It was a joy to read.