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The Underground River

(2017)
A novel by

 
 
Set aboard a nineteenth century riverboat theater, this New York Times Notable book is the “captivating, thoughtful, and unforgettable” (Kathleen Grissom, author of The Kitchen House) story of a charmingly frank and naive seamstress who is blackmailed into saving runaways on the Underground Railroad, jeopardizing her freedom, her livelihood, and a new love.

It’s 1838, and May Bedloe works as a seamstress for her cousin, the famous actress Comfort Vertue—until their steamboat sinks on the Ohio River. Though they both survive, both must find new employment. Comfort is hired to give lectures by noted abolitionist, Flora Howard, and May finds work on a small flatboat, Hugo and Helena’s Floating Theatre, as it cruises the border between the northern states and the southern slave-holding states.

May becomes indispensable to Hugo and his troupe, and all goes well until she sees her cousin again. Comfort and Mrs. Howard are also traveling down the Ohio River, speaking out against slavery at the many riverside towns. May owes Mrs. Howard a debt she cannot repay, and Mrs. Howard uses the opportunity to enlist May in her network of shadowy characters who help ferry slaves across the river to freedom. Lying has never come easy to May, but now she is compelled to break the law, deceive all her newfound friends, and deflect the rising suspicions of a slave catcher.

As May’s secrets become more tangled, the Floating Theatre readies for its biggest performance yet. May’s predicament could mean doom for her friends on board, including her beloved Hugo, unless she can figure out a way to entrap those who know her best. “Twain has his ‘Life on the Mississippi’. Conway’s life on the Ohio makes you see the place, through May’s eyes, in all its muddy glory” (New York Times Book Review).

Genre: Historical

Praise for this book

"Warning: The Underground River is a page-turner. Be prepared to stay up late reading, because once you start you won’t want to put it down. From the first page to the last, Martha Conway’s novel is riveting, immersing the reader in the adventures of an unlikely heroine who finds courage, independence and love amid the social turmoil of the Underground Railroad. Vividly drawn settings, original characters, and perilous situations make this mesmerizing book one you will remember for years to come." - Amy Belding Brown

"The Underground River is both a dear love story and a page-turning adventure about the Underground Railroad - and an unwilling participant. An extraordinary cast of memorable characters gives this book irresistible appeal while the setting on the watery boundary between North and South places them in dangerous and morally ambiguous territory. A captivating, thoughtful, and unforgettable read." - Kathleen Grissom

"Martha Conway's The Underground River is simply wonderful, a novel in which the women - good and bad - matter. The tale is told by young May Bedloe, who grows up and falls in love as the modest little show-boat drifts down the river between the small towns of the slave-holding South and the free North. May is pitched into the middle of the Slave vs Free drama not through conviction--though she does indeed know what's right--but by blackmail, until eventually she musters the courage to risk everything for another woman. I loved May, and I very much hope we have not seen the last of her." - Beverly Swerling

"A riveting and atmospheric novel about slavery, betrayal and redemption." - Louisa Treger


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Used availability for Martha Conway's The Underground River

Hardback Editions

June 2017 : USA Hardback
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Title: The Underground River: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Conway
ISBN: 1-5011-6020-6 / 978-1-5011-6020-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Atria Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Paperback Editions

August 2018 : USA Paperback
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Title: The Underground River: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Conway
ISBN: 1-5011-6025-7 / 978-1-5011-6025-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: Atria Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Audio Editions

June 2017 : USA Audio CD
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Title: The Underground River
Author(s): Martha Conway
ISBN: 1-5414-5570-3 / 978-1-5414-5570-2 (USA edition)
Publisher: Tantor Media Inc
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


June 2017 : USA Audio CD
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Title: The Underground River: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Conway
ISBN: 1-5414-0570-6 / 978-1-5414-0570-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


June 2017 : USA Audio edition
thumb

Title: The Underground River: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Conway
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Availability: Amazon   


June 2017 : Canada Audio edition
thumb

Title: The Underground River: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Conway
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Availability: Amazon CA   


Kindle Editions

June 2017 : USA, Canada Kindle edition
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Title: The Underground River: A Novel
Author(s): Martha Conway
Publisher: Atria Books
Availability: Amazon   Amazon CA