Book Talk: Trouble The Water: A novel by Rebecca Dwight Bruff
"With this stunning debut novel, Rebecca Bruff establishes herself as an exciting new voice in historical fiction."
—Cassandra King Conroy, author of Moonrise, and Founding Honorary Chair of the Pat Conroy Literary Center
About the Book
Inspired by the life and legacy of Robert Smalls, the first black Civil War hero, Trouble the Water explores family, faith and freedom.
Born enslaved in South Carolina, Smalls witnesses great privilege and immense suffering alongside his owner's daughter and the dangerous son of a firebrand secessionist. When he's only twelve, he's put to work in Charleston, where he loads ships and learns to pilot a cotton steamer. When the war erupts and his cotton steamer becomes a confederate warship, Robert seizes the opportunity to attempt a daring escape from slavery and pursue freedom for himself and the people he loves.
Robert Smalls is one of America's great unsung heroes, and Trouble the Water finally brings his story into the light.
Perfect for fans of The Invention of Wings, Homegoing, The Underground Railroad
Reviews and What Readers Say
" Debut author Rebecca Bruff has made her mark with this exceptional examination of family, freedom, and what it really means to fight for the light." —Julie Cantrell, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Perennials
“ Rebecca Bruff's poignant portrayal of Robert Smalls is uplifting, engaging and inspiring. Her words flowed across the page as seamlessly and effortlessly as Smalls' sailing across the Charleston Harbor to freedom. This man was a hero and his story is largely unknown. Now, more than ever, this part of our history needs to be told, read, and understood. And I'm so thankful to Bruff for bringing it into the forefront.” —Cele and Lynn Seldon, authors of 100 Things to Do in Charleston Before You Die
“ In her debut novel, Trouble The Water, Rebecca Dwight Bruff does a beautiful job of telling the story of the life of Robert Smalls. I will admit that I’m not normally a fan of historical fiction, but this novel was so well written that I couldn’t put it down. I was fascinated from the first page to the last by this remarkable man’s life story. I’m shocked that so few people know about Smalls’s heroic journey from slavery to the U.S. House of Representatives. I was familiar enough with history to know that Smalls was going to survive, yet I still found myself holding my breath as I read the section where he commandeered a heavily armed Confederate ship and delivered its passengers from slavery to freedom. Bruff’s beautiful prose brought the story to life. I’m looking forward to more books by this author. She made a historical fiction reader out of me.” —Dana Ridenour, Amazon Reader's Review
“ Ruff engaged with the souls of her characters and made her story believable even when we did not want to believe and igniting compassion for those we never knew. Robert Smalls is a hero in the low country of SC and you will know his story and want to know more. And she offered the story of the oppressor and knew the truth-the whole story clearer than before. Read, share your insights and know the pain of the enslaved lingers in the genes of the generations that came after him.” —Tzipi V. Radonsky, Amazon Reader's Review
“ I loved this book! It is well written & gives a wonderful picture of the life of Robert Smalls. I've read several books set during this same time period, but this book asks some hard questions that that others have not. For instance, why would it disturb the white owners if Robert learned to read, what about that scared them? It is a book about a dark time in our history but is filled with hope and redemption.” —Joy, Amazon Reader's Review
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LRebecca Bruff heard the story of Robert Smalls on her first visit to South Carolina. She was so captivated that she left her job and moved across the country to research and write this novel. Bruff earned her Bachelors degree in education (Texas A&M) and Master and Doctorate degrees in theology (Southern Methodist University). In 2017, she was a scholarship recipient for the prestigious Key West Literary Seminar. She volunteers at the Pat Conroy Literary Center in Beaufort, South Carolina. She’s published non-fiction, plays a little tennis, travels when she can, and loves life in the lowcountry with her husband and an exuberant golden retriever.