73 pages 2 hours read

Charles R. Johnson

Middle Passage

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 1990

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Before You Read

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Super Short Summary

Middle Passage by Charles R. Johnson, published in 1990 and winner of the National Book Award for fiction, follows Rutherford Calhoun, an ex-slave from Illinois who stows away on the New Orleans-based slave ship Republic to escape debts and an unwanted marriage. Onboard, he discovers the ship is transporting the magical Allmuseri people and a mysterious god-like artifact. Amidst mutiny and supernatural events, Rutherford navigates complex relationships and moral dilemmas, ultimately leading to the ship's destruction and a resolution involving the blackmail of an underworld boss and a marriage arrangement. The book includes themes of slavery and mental illness.

Reviews & Readership

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Review Roundup

Charles R. Johnson's Middle Passage is praised for its richly layered narrative and historical depth, effectively blending adventure with profound philosophical questions about freedom and identity. Critics acknowledge its intricate character development and evocative language. Some, however, believe the complexity of its themes may challenge less attentive readers. Overall, it's a compelling, thought-provoking read.

Who should read this

Who Should Read Middle Passage?

Readers who relish Middle Passage by Charles R. Johnson typically appreciate historical fiction intertwined with philosophical undertones and adventure. Fans of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick and Toni Morrison’s Beloved will find its rich narrative and exploration of freedom, identity, and transformation particularly engaging.

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