Counting Souls – Donald R. Buchanan


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Macon County, North Carolina – 1829

Storm clouds are gathering over the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Andrew Jackson has signed legislation sealing the fate of the Cherokee, and tempers flare as land-hungry pioneers push the tribe to the breaking point. The settlers have also brought slavery to the frontier. Tensions burn between yeoman farmers and wealthy slaveholders, as fears of a slave insurrection drive draconian measures.

Tom Love is the son of a powerful mountain family, but life on his small farm has been difficult, and the death of his oldest daughter has driven him to the brink of despair. He’s offered a lifeline by his influential uncle: the job of census taker for Macon County for the 1830 federal census. But it’s a Faustian bargain. He will accept two enslaved people to work the farm while he collects the census.

Isaiah was born on Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia plantation. After the former president dies, his assets, including his enslaved servants, are sold to pay his sizable debts. Isaiah, brutalized and separated from his wife and child, now finds himself on the Love farm in the mountain wilderness.

This is a story about family: what you would do to be reunited with them, what you would do to protect them, and how you live when you lose them. It’s a story about cultural conflict, what divides us and what unites us. And it’s a paean to the glory of the southern Appalachians and a way of life, intertwined with nature, which is slipping from our memory.