Ken Follett

A Place Called Freedom

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A Place Called Freedom Summary

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A Place Called Freedom is a 1995 novel by Ken Follett. It follows the life of Mack McAsh, a coal miner living in Scotland in the late 1700s. Mack wants a life of freedom, and dedicates his life to fighting off the wealthy individuals who keep him tied to a life of slavery. The novel includes real historical references and characters, including the non-fictional John Wilkes Booth and George Washington.

The story begins when twin brother and sister Malachi (Mack) and Esther McAsh walk to church on a crisp morning in their town of High Glen. Mack has spent his whole life working long, grueling hours in the mine. He dreams of buying a house someday. Unlike most coal miners, Mack knows how to read and write because his mother taught him. He uses his skills to write to a lawyer in London about illegal practices in the mines. He plans to read the lawyer’s reply in church on that day, even though it will probably make some people angry.

Another character, Lizzie Hallim, is a rebellious, single woman whose mother fears she will never be married. Even though men often fall in love with her, she is too independent and stubborn to be interested in any of them. Her family wants her to marry Robert Jamisson, the wealthy son of the local mine owner. Lizzie thinks Robert is “acceptable” and will probably marry him if he asks. However, at a visit to the Jamisson estate, she meets Robert’s brother, Jay, and takes an interest in him instead.

In church that morning, the whole town, including Lizzie and the Jamissons, is in attendance. Mack reads his letter, and, as expected, the Jamissons are angry. After the reading, Sir Jamisson punishes Mack. Mack and Esther realize they need to escape, and start a fire down in the mine. Mack’s plan is to go to London and save enough to get his sister out of town. Lizzie watches as the miners flee town and she helps Mack in his escape. Tension also builds between Jay and Robert as Jay’s and Lizzie’s relationship strengthens. Jay decides to propose to Lizzie, and she accepts the proposal in front of Robert. Jay asks Lizzie’s parents for permission and they make a deal that absolves the Hallims of a large amount of debt.

Mack goes to London, where he enjoys a “free” life for a short time. He meets a friend in London named Dermot. The pair goes to a fighting match in the city and Mack gets a job offer after winning a fight. Lizzie and her mother travel to London and meet Jay, where they look at a house to live in together. Lizzie goes to see Mack fight in town. While there, Mack confesses to Lizzie that he doesn’t want her to marry Jay. Mack and a friend save a girl named Peg who is being abused by a man in the streets, and the three become friends.

Mack and Dermot eventually find jobs shoveling coal. Although they earn double what they made in their previous positions, the coal owners do not always pay their fair share. Mack’s goal is to make enough to retrieve Esther from High Glen. After a few weeks, their boss tells them there is no more work. Jay and Lizzie attend a hanging, and Lizzie has to dress like a man in order to attend. The crowd becomes very drunk and rambunctious after the hanging and Jay and Lizzie are separated. As Lizzie tries to find her way back to Jay, she is almost raped by a man in the alley. Mack, who was also at the hanging, finds her and saves her before Jay gets the chance.

Lizzie becomes pregnant with Jay’s baby. Unbeknownst to Lizzie, Jay has a gambling problem. He makes a shady deal to clear some debt that involves framing Mack for a shipping boycott. Sir Philip Armstrong from the Secretary of State’s office visits the Jamissons and says he knows Jay was involved in the boycott, but instead wants the family to find Mack and arrest him.

Mack, ahead of the game, makes himself hard to find. The family tries to find him through one of his friends named Cora but is unsuccessful. Eventually, however, they are caught, and Cora, Mack, and Peg are sent to trial. As a result of the trial, they are sent to the colonies in America to work as slaves on the Jamisson’s plantation. They are shipped off in the bottom decks of a boat. Lizzie and Jay are also traveling on the boat to see the plantation that was given to them as a wedding present.

Jay receives a loan and gambles away the money and the plantation. Lizzie’s baby dies after only a few short days. Jay is unsupportive and flippant about the death, but Mack is very comforting to Lizzie. He tries to convince her to leave Jay, but this just makes her angry. Lizzie also thinks Jay might be having an affair. She follows him and finds him in bed with a slave and becomes suicidal.

Mack still thinks Lizzie should go with him. He gets a doctor for her and shows her details of his plans, which convinces her to go, and they escape with Peg. Lizzie and Mack start to fall in love, and when Peg sees them kissing, she runs away. Jay creates a search crew and searches for Lizzie, offering rewards to people who might have seen her and Mack. The group finds Peg, but she won’t reveal Mack and Lizzie’s location. Mack and Lizzie figure out they’re being hunted. The two groups reach the Holston River, where Jay sees Mack swimming in the water and shoots at him, but misses. Mack and Lizzie escape Jay’s group and live the life of freedom they have always wanted.