Book Showcase: PECULIAR SAVAGE BEAUTY by Jessica McCann

Peculiar Savage Beauty by Jessica McCann
ISBN: 9780999460207 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780999460214 (ebook)
ASIN: B0793F7RB9 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Perspective Books
Release Date: April 17, 2018

Kansas, 1934

The black blizzard is a formidable enemy. The furious dust storm blots out the sun, chokes the life from both man and beast. When RJ Evans finds herself engulfed in inky blackness and holed up beneath her Model AA Ford on an isolated plains road – dirt caked beneath her fingernails, skin flecked with blood drawn by the biting dust – she has no idea this trial won’t be her toughest.

What awaits her in the small farming town of Vanham, when she begins her job as a geologist for the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, is even more daunting.

Drought and over-plowing have turned the once-lush plains into an unforgiving wasteland. Headstrong and intent on healing the earth through conservation farming, RJ must somehow find her place in a community that welcomes neither women in authority nor changes to their way of life.

She befriends Woody, an autistic savant born in an era long before any medical diagnosis would explain his peculiar ways and unique talents. The locals label the young man an idiot and RJ an armchair farmer. Yet, in each other, they see so much more.

Beating back the dust is a daily battle. It is a clash that creates unlikely alliances. As RJ learns she must rely on her adversaries if she is to survive the dangers of the Dust Bowl, she also grows to realize that she – like the land itself – is in desperate need of healing.

Add to Goodreads badge

Read an excerpt

June 1920

Rosa Jean knew it was foolish to believe her parents had been buried alive. But she couldn’t get the idea out of her head. When she closed her eyes, she could see them sleeping in their wooden boxes. She could hear the rain of dirt pelting the casket lids. She would dwell on their terror – awakening in the darkness, lungs burning from the rank, oxygen-depleted air, and realizing their fate.

How must it feel to be buried alive? To be swallowed up by the earth?

She stretched out in the oblong hole she had dug behind her uncle’s barn. The moist earth chilled her bare legs. She briefly peered at the black mud packed around her chewed fingernails and jagged cuticles. Then, she crossed her tiny hands over her chest and closed her eyes. When Uncle Lou came upon the girl lying there, he howled, grabbed her up by the arms and dragged her like a ragdoll to the house.

“There’s something dreadful wrong with this child.”

Excerpt from Peculiar Savage Beauty by Jessica McCann. 
Copyright © 2018 by Jessica McCann. Reproduced with permission from Jessica McCann. All rights reserved.

Meet the Author

Jessica McCann worked for more than 25 years as a professional freelance journalist and corporate writer. Her articles have appeared in Business Week, The Writer, Raising Arizona Kids, Phoenix and dozens of other magazines. McCann’s debut novel, All Different Kinds of Free, won the Freedom in Fiction Prize and was published by Bell Bridge Books. Her second novel, Peculiar Savage Beauty, will be available in hardcopy and ebook April 17, 2018. She lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. 

Connect with the author at her website, Facebook, Twitter, Amazon,  or Goodreads.

Book Giveaway

Enter to win one (1) hardback copy of Peculiar Savage Beauty by Jessica McCann. This giveaway is open to US residents only (sorry to my international followers) and all entrants must use the Rafflecopter form below. The giveaway will end at 11:59 PM ET on Sunday, April 8th and the winner will be announced on Monday, April 9th. The book is being supplied by the author.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Buy the book

Available from              BookDepository     

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit



Peculiar Savage Beauty

Peculiar Savage Beauty




I often hesitate when reading a book about slavery, especially slavery within the United States. This can be a very emotional subject for many of African-American descent. I wish I could say that All Different Kinds of Free by Jessica McCann wasn’t an emotionally-charged read, but it was . . . in a very good way. Ms. McCann provides a poignant bordering on tragic fictionalization of the life of Margaret Morgan and family. 

Margaret was born to freed slaves of Mr. Ashmore and grew up free in Maryland. She was taught to read by Mrs. Ashmore. She marries Jerry Morgan, a freed slave, and they have three children — Sammy, Johnny and Emma. When tensions rise in Maryland due to an attempted slave revolt, they move to Philadelphia where Blacks are treated with humanity and a sense of respect. Margaret is an accomplished seamstress and quite happy with her life in Pennsylvania. Jerry works as a teamster and earns enough to keep his family clothed and well fed. All is well with the Morgans until the day Edward Prigg comes to Philadelphia. Prigg asserts that he is a bounty-hunter looking for a runaway slave of Mrs. Ashmore, Margaret Morgan. His quest is thought to be thwarted when the Pennsylvania courts rule that since he doesn’t have papers showing ownership the Morgans remain free. However, Mr. Prigg doesn’t like to be told no and mounts a late-night capture of Margaret Morgan and her children. Before they know it, they are back in Maryland with the intent of being sold to offset Mrs. Ashmore’s debts. Thus begins a fight between the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland on state rights. Pennsylvania in 1835 is a state that presumes a Black man or woman is free and since the state doesn’t recognize slavery, goes out of its way to protect the rights of these men and women. Maryland is a slave state and presumes that any Black man or woman seen out and about is a slave or a runaway and the only rights to be protected are those of the slaves’ owners. While Margaret and her children languish in a jail cell, Maryland and Pennsylvania launch a battle that is taken all the way to the Supreme Court. Margaret even tries to sue Mrs. Ashmore to prove that she was born free, but she isn’t allowed to question anyone in court, have an attorney protect her interests or present evidence on her behalf so she loses. What follows is heart-wrenching. Margaret and her children are prepared for sale and her sons are sold to two different slave owners. Margaret and Emma are sold together to a slave-owner from South Carolina that has started his own “breeding” program.

Although Margaret is intended to be a house slave, her attitude gets her beaten and raped on the first night at the plantation. She does eventually find her “place” acting as a nurse to the other slaves. She and Emma are permitted to grow foods that supplement the allotted foods to the slaves as well as herbs used to treat their sicknesses. Meanwhile, back in Maryland, Mrs. Ashmore is starting to have a change of heart. She has become “friends” with her one remaining slave, Jim. Jim finds a way to get messages to Margaret using the Underground Railroad. Later when he is freed, Jim leaves Maryland for South Carolina to purchase the freedom of Margaret and Emma, with the blessings of Mrs. Ashmore. The results are less than spectacular.

All Different Kinds of Free is not light-hearted but it is a well-written and thought-provoking read. The characters endure harshness and strife that we can only imagine, but they do endure. Margaret is completely believable as a Black woman that has never been a slave. She has a quickness of mind and the unguarded tongue of someone that has never been whipped or feared being whipped for speaking her mind. She does guard her behavior in public but it is her tongue that gets her into trouble time and time again. Margaret eventually learns how to appear subservient while getting her way. She teaches her daughter to read and throughout all of their woes and struggles as slaves they endure and remain hopeful. I think it was their enduring hope that made this a good read for me.

Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from the publisher through netGalley. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”