A haunting novel set in early 19th-century Louisiana, Susan Straight's "A Million Nightingales" (Pantheon, $24.95) is the tale of a slave girl's journey — emotional and physical — from captivity to freedom.
Moinette is the daughter of an African mother and a White father she never knew. While her mother cares for the plantation linens, Moinette tends to the master's daughter, which allows her to eavesdrop on lessons. She also learns that she is property, and, at age 14, she is sold, separated from her mother without a chance to say goodbye. Heartbroken and terrified, and with a full understanding of what she will risk, Moinette begins almost immediately to prepare herself for the moment when she will escape.
It is Moinette's own voice that we hear in the novel — bright, rhythmic, observant — as she describes her journey through a world of brutality, sexual violence and loss. Quick to see the patterns of French, American and African life play out around her, Moinette makes her way from sugarcane fields through mysterious bayous to the streets of Opelousas, where the true meaning of freedom emerges from the bonds of love.