Libertie, as the name suggests, is a coming-of-age novel about freedom, set during the years of the American Civil War and its unsettled aftermath. Libertie Sampson, a free-born black girl, chafes against her mother’s stifling expectations. Mama, a doctor who helps to smuggle slaves from the south, dreams of her daughter working alongside her as a physician.... Kaitlyn Greenidge is good on the contradictions of freedom, and the persistent, sour legacy of slavery, but it is the mother-daughter relationship that makes this novel dazzle. Mama, a woman of science not poetry, tells Libertie, “the only good poem I’ve ever written is you. A daughter is a poem. A daughter is a kind of psalm. You, in the world, responding to me, is the song I made.”
From her attention-grabbing opening line (“I saw my mother raise a man from the dead”), Greenidge mixes elements of both conventional historical fiction and magical realism into a satisfying and emotionally powerful brew.