Monday, August 15, 2011

Across the Wide River by Stephanie Reed

Reed has created a novel for teens based on a real family that participated in the Ohio underground railroad during the early 1800s. The Rankin family is real and current descendants helped with background for the story. You can go to and search for “Rankin” to see family names and a photograph of the parents.

As the novel opens, the Rankins live in Kentucky. They had been on their way to Ohio, a free state, once before but stopped in Carlisle as they needed John's preaching skills. Young Lowry Rankin's best friend is Sherwood, the young slave of a benevolent owner. Lowrly is disappointed when Sherwood has to leave after being beaten by a stranger.
The Rankins finally make the move to Ripley, Ohio in 1826. The family immediately becomes involved in the underground railroad. Even young Lowry helps by riding along with a fugitive slave to the next house, on the way to Canada and freedom.
John wants his son to be a preacher but Lowry has other ideas. He ends up going to his uncle's to apprentice as a draftsman. He is able to see more of Amanda, a girl he liked from the first time he saw her.
One day Lowry goes on a new ship and investigating how the stairs were built, ends up in the hold. There he sees fifty slaves, chained to each other. One is a light colored girl being severely mistreated. Overwhelmed with the cruelty, he decides to go into the ministry.
He enters Lane Seminary and meets Dr. Beecher, Professor Stowe and Stowe's wife, Beecher's daughter Harriet, a writer.
Lowry continues to help in the underground railroad and becomes very ill from the pressures of study and lack of sleep. He ends up going back to the farm, facing those who hate abolitionists. Lowry is amazed when one of the slaves he helps transport is Sherwood, who finally escaped from his owner.

This is not an action novel. At times there are pages of background material (as many as eight) without dialogue or action. This would be a great novel for a teen with a desire to know about slavery and the underground railroad. A teen who did not already have the desire to learn about the topic may find the book slow going. The fact that the novel is based on real people definitely adds to the drama of the story.

Find out more about the author at
Find out about the sequel to this book at The Light Across the River trailer.

Kregel Publications, 176 pages.

I received a copy of the book from Kregel for the purpose of this review.

1 comment:

Stephanie Reed said...

Thank you, Joan! Yes, the Rankin family really did know the Beechers and the Stowes, and that's the basis for the sequel to Wide River, The Light Across the River. Your readers can enjoy the first two chapters of both books for free. Just click here:

If your readers have questions for me, please ask!