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The Safe Room by B. A. Shapiro
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The Safe Room

by B. A. Shapiro

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Have you ever tried to wrestle with a ghost? Lee Seymour sees her grandmother, Clara, in the basement of Harden house, shoveling dirt into the old unfinished tunnel which had been intended to become part of the Underground Railroad system. Lee watches in horror as her grandmother pulls the shovel as if someone is trying to take it. Lee sees the image of a strong black man pulling against her grandmother. Then, her very healthy grandmother dies on the spot. Was she scared to death … or was there something more sinister going on?

This novel splits present day Harden House with pre-Civil War era Sarah Harden and Silas Person. Sarah’s father, Colonel Stanton Harden, was an abolitionist in Lexington, MA. Silas Person had made it to the house hobbling on a broken leg. The Colonel had a doctor he could trust to set Silas’ leg. Sarah spent time with Silas and was amazed at how well-read he was since it was against the law for slaves to have been taught to read. The furthest thing on the Colonel’s mind was that his daughter would actually become attracted to a runaway slave.

I loved how the author related the history of Harden House into the present day time of Clara and her granddaughter, Lee. They are direct descendants of Sarah Harden. The past was shown through paragraphs dedicated to Sarah’s diary which she began in August 1858 on her seventeenth birthday. We see her go from a rather self-centered young lady to a mature individual hardened by injustice. This is a ghost story as Silas spirit still inhabits Harden House, but it is not a scary story. Overall, the story was enjoyable as a whole, but I tended to favor the historical portion. Rating: 4 out of 5. ( )
  FictionZeal | Jun 5, 2015 |
On Book Riot today, Maddie Rodriguez wrote about "phrases that trigger my 'shut up and take my money' response," i.e., descriptions which immediately identify a book as one I want to read. For Ms. Rodriguez, those phrases include "set in 19th century London" and "genre mash-up"; I love mysteries and the supernatural, so when Open Road Media invited me to read and review a book set in "a world in which murder and ghosts are all too real," I was hooked. I am happy to report that B.A. Shapiro's The Safe Room fulfilled my expectations.

Like many ghost stories, The Safe Room involves the ghost of a murder victim who hopes to draw the living into avenging his murder. In this case, the ghost is of Silas Person, an escaped slave killed while en route to safety via the Underground Railroad. However, Shapiro also gives us a modern-day death which may, or may not, be linked to Silas's murder or even caused by his ghost. The book alternates between the two time-frames, with each clue in one time period causing the reader to reevaluate what she thinks she has figured out with respect to the other death. When Shapiro finally brings the two storylines together, she successfully answers the questions surrounding both deaths, leading to a very satisfying conclusion.

My only quibble arose from Shapiro's incorporation of slave quilts and their use on the Underground Railroad. Because my concern is spoiler-y, I have not discussed it here; those interested should look at my review on Goodreads. Ultimately, this issue did not detract significantly from my enjoyment of the book.

I received a free copy of The Safe Room through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. ( )
1 vote BrandieC | Apr 6, 2015 |
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From the bestselling author of The Art Forger How long can murder haunt a family? Until the wrong is put right and the victim is able to rest in peace. Set in Lexington, Massachusetts, The Safe Room is a story of such a murder and such a haunting. A psychological thriller, the tale toggles between the eve of the Civil War and present day. It follows the doomed love affair of Silas Person, a runaway slave riding the Underground Railroad, and Sarah Harden, the daughter of a famous abolitionist. Sarah and Silas's story is intertwined with that of Lee Seymour, a modern-day descendant of the Harden family who must suddenly grapple with a world in which murder and ghosts are all too real. The Safe Room is a suspenseful tale that employs love and the paranormal to explore the ugliness of injustice and the beauty of human hope.… (more)

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