A Civil War tale of a young and passionate college graduate who risks her life to help slaves cross the Canadian Border to safety.

The Hidden Light of Northern Fires

By Daren Wang


PBR Book Review:


A different perspective on the Civil War. It’s a story of a young and passionate girl, recently home from college – working to help slaves cross the NY Canadian border to safety. She faces many challenges as she struggles to do the right thing in an atmosphere where betrayal is common, and people’s beliefs are sharply divided over what is right and wrong. Some of the characters may not be likable but all are realistic and believable. All in all a fascinating story, with enough tension and forward movement to keep you turning the pages.
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*Discussion Questions



1. Is it surprising that a place in the North seceded during the Civil War? Do Town Line’s reasons for secession sound like something you’d hear today?

2. Does Mary choose to help runaways just for altruistic reasons alone, or is there something else that drives her?

3. Leander is eighteen years old when the war starts, the same age as most people when they nish high school now. Was more expected of boys that age in the nineteenth century than now? Does Leander seem irresponsible, or just young?

4. After Mary graduates from college, she struggles to nd something to do with her education. If you were a woman during that era, what options do you think you’d have?

5. Charlie Webster wanders across America in his exile. What would you do if you had to ee your home? Where would you go?

6. Mary visits a black church right after war is declared, and the parishioners are frustrated that they will not be allowed to ght in the war. How do you think the freedmen in the North would have reacted?

7. Harry says he doesn’t want anything to do with the war, but he nds himself slowly drawn into working for Compson and the Confederates. Do you think he gets what he deserves in the end?

8. What do you think Joe’s father feels, watching Joe show so much promise while being limited by his status as a slave, while Yates shows little effort but has everything available to him?

9. Most stories about the Civil War are written from the perspective of the South. Why do you think the South continues to concern itself with the Civil War so much more than the North?

10. In the end, does Mary stay in Town Line, or does she leave? What makes you think that’s her choice?

(Discussion Questions by Publisher)


Book Club Talking Points:
A fantastic Civil War story that focuses on the human struggle to do the right thing. The main character, Mary has courage and tenacity as she fights to help slaves cross the Canadian border to safety. It’s also interesting to learn that there was a Northern town that seceded from the Union.
Book Summary
Rooted in the history of the only secessionist town north of the Mason Dixon Line, Daren Wang's The Hidden Light of Northern Fires tells a story of redemption amidst a war that tore families and the country apart.

Mary Willis has always been an outcast, an abolitionist in a town of bounty hunters and anti-Union farmers. After college, she dreams of exploring the country, but is obligated to take over the household duties and management of her family’s farm, while her brother Leander avoids his own responsibilities. Helping runaways is the only thing that makes her life in Town Line bearable.

When escaped slave Joe Bell collapses in her father’s barn, Mary is determined to help him cross to freedom in nearby Canada. But the wounded fugitive is haunted by his vengeful owner, who relentlessly hunts him up and down the country, and his sister, still trapped as a slave in the South.

As the countryside is riled by the drumbeat of civil war, rebels and soldiers from both sides bring intrigue and violence of the brutal war to the town and the farm, and threaten to destroy all that Mary loves.


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