Monday, July 15, 2013

Safe House ~ by Kathi Macias. Review by Shirley Corder

I offered to read and review this historical short story and looked forward in eager anticipation to getting into the story.

I was instantly hooked by the main character, 11-year-old Nathaniel Johnson. The story takes place during June 1863 when school is out on holiday. He misses his father who signed up to fight in the Civil War the previous autumn and has not been heard of since.

Nathaniel lives with his mother and grandfather who share opposite views on the issue of slaves. His grandfather and Nathaniel's missing father are both strong abolitionists, while his mother believes Christians should obey the law and not be involved in abetting legally-owned slaves to find freedom.

The youngster is torn in his feelings, wanting to believe his mother is correct and yet horrified by some of the stories fed to him by his grandfather. Things come to a head when Nathaniel discovered a young slave couple hiding in the family barn with their hours-old infant. His grandfather is old and frail, his father is missing, and the raiding party is on its way to find and recapture slaves on the run. The boy faces a decision which could carry horrific consequences and thrust him into a manhood he is scarcely ready for.

The characters are strong and well-portrayed, and the story line gripped me from the first paragraph. The author has used her ability to create atmosphere well, and as a reader I could see Nathaniel's favorite spot, "nearly hidden away in a sheltered cove on the banks of the Ohio River" and feel the cool water lapping around his bare feet. I felt the boy's pain and fear at the loss of his father, and the emotional turmoil over the opposing points of view in the issue of slaves.

When the story reaches its climax, with the knowledge that a raiding party of slave catchers are on their way, the tension becomes tangible and I couldn't put the book down until I learned what Nathaniel was going to do.

My only complaint is that the book stopped too soon! I wanted to read on and learn how Nathaniel's decision affects his future and that of his family. Despite this, I strongly recommend this short book and give it a five-star review.

Safe House is one of a series of short stories by various authors, all set in 1863. Although it is only available as an e-book now, the entire 1863 Civil War series of short stories will be available in print after the last of the short stories releases (one every two weeks).
I have not been compensated in any way for this review, and these are my honest opinions.

Kathi Macias is a multi-award winning writer who has authored nearly 40 books and ghostwritten several others. A former newspaper columnist and string reporter, Kathi has taught creative and business writing in various venues and has been a guest on many radio and television programs. She is a popular speaker at churches, women’s clubs and retreats, and writers’ conferences.

She won the 2008 Member of the Year award from AWSA (Advanced Writers and Speakers Association) and was the 2011 Author of the Year from Kathi “Easy Writer” Macias lives in Homeland, CA, with her husband.


  1. Ok, this story sounds incredible!!! I do have a question though. Is it suitable for kids, or is it an adult novel, reading about an 11 year old? I am definitely going to have to read this one!

  2. If this were coming from a secular publisher, I would expect Christianity to be totally trashed for promoting something as immoral as slavery, but this is Kathi Macias, so I look for a solution that will challenge my faith and my way of thinking in positive ways. Evocative cover too. Thanks for your review, Shirley.

  3. Thanks for the review, Shirl. Looks like a powerful read.

  4. Jenn - it would work okay for an older child, especially if read with an adult. It is thought-provoking and would give the reader insight into what slaves and Christian families faced during those times.
    LeAnne - the story doesn't in any way promote slavery. It rather shows the challenges Christian families faced over how to deal with the issues involved. The Christian mother is concerned about those who help the slaves and are thus breaking the laws of the land. She is also afraid for repercussions on the family. It is really a situation that is faced in many countries (including my own) even today, when faced by conflict between obeying the law and standing up for your faith. Easy in theory. Not so easy when the safety of your family hangs on the decisions made.

  5. Thank you for sharing this, Shirley! I haven't read SAFE HOUSE but I know all of Kathi's books are wonderful.

  6. This one's no exception. I've told her I want to see a full length novel on the theme. It's a great story.