Chesapeake Author:James A. Michener This magnificient story is based on the history of the North American east from the late sixteenth century to the present. The action takes place on a broad stage, including England, France, Africa, South America, the West Indies, and the waters that ie between. — Though the novel deals with many historical events and persons, the author is mainl... more »y concerned with the human and other creatures that live around and in the great Chesapeake Bay and are sustained by it. All manner of men - hunters, farmers, watermen, craftsmen, servants, merchants, officials - and their strong-minded wives increase in numbers over the years, while oysters, crabs, ducks and, nnotably, geese - all so abundant at the beginning - decrease as the quality of the water declines and land becomes depleted and less plentiful.
The central scene, however, is neither the broad Atlantic nor even the entire bay, but that dramatic section of Maryland's Eastern Shore, hardly more than ten miles square, where the Choptank River flows into the Chesapeake. To this point come the founders of families that will dominate the story. The first, in 1583, is Pentaquod, the tall Susquehannock, in flight from a dangerous conflict with his tribe. He finds the peaceful and ineffectual Choptank Indians and becomes their chief. In 1611 Edmund Steed, having come to Jamestown to escape the persecution of Catholics in England, moves up the pay to the Choptank. He is followed in 1638 by a fugitive from justice, Timothy Turlock; and in 1664 by the militant Quaker Edward Paxmore, who has been banished from Massachusetts.
The nineteenth century brings three more founding fathers. In 1833 the African Cudjo, after being sold into slavery and surviving a year of horrible adventures, is bought for a Steed plantation, where his torments continue until his strengh and resourcefullness surmount them. Michael Caveny escapes a famine in Ireland and arrives in 1852 Otto Pflaum, seaman, is "introduced" to the area in 1893 by Tim Caveny and Jake Turlock.
The descendants of these extraordinary men produce over the years a wide variety of characters who play major and minor roles in this compelling story. No reader will forget (to mention only a few) Captain Matt Turlock, Paul Steed, Hugo Pflaum, Pusey Paxmore, or Cudgo's great-great-grandson Hiram Cater. Perhaps most memorable are some of the women who join the principal families through matrimony: Rosalind Janney Steed (most of all); Ruth Brinton Paxmore and Rachel Starbuck Paxmore, relentless fighters against slavery; eden, the Steed slave whom Cudjo Cater marries; and Julia Cater, wife of Cudjo's great-grandson and mother of Hiram.
Preceding each of the thirteen chapters in this elegantly wrought book, there is an account of a voyage - over water or land or both. These are fascinating and informative in themselves, with the additional virtue that they lead directly into or are thematically related to the actions that follow. Thus they separate, but at the same time bind together, the main sections.« less