Freedom's Song

A Novel

About the Book

Her voice made her a riverboat’s darling—and its prisoner. Now she’s singing her way to freedom in this powerful novel from the bestselling author of The Librarian of Boone's Hollow.

“[An] enjoyable faith-filled adventure . . . Sawyer’s episodic narrative and rich assortment of characters fighting for freedom provide the story with many twists and unexpected side-plots.”—Publishers Weekly

Indentured servant Fanny Beck has been forced to sing for riverboat passengers since she was a girl. All she wants is to live a quiet, humble life with her family as soon as her seven-year contract is over. So when she discovers that the captain has no intention of releasing her, she seizes a sudden opportunity to escape—an impulse that leads Fanny to a group of enslaved people who are on their own dangerous quest for liberty. . . .

Widower Walter Kuhn is overwhelmed by his responsibilities to his farm and young daughter, and now his mail-order bride hasn’t arrived. Could a beautiful stranger seeking work be the answer to his prayers? . . .
After the star performer of the River Peacock is presumed drowned, Sloan Kirkpatrick, the riverboat’s captain, sets off to find her replacement. However, his journey will bring him face to face with his own past—and a deeper understanding of what it truly means to be free. . . . 

Uplifting, inspiring, and grounded in biblical truth, Freedom’s Song is a story for every reader who has longed for physical, emotional, or spiritual delivery.
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Praise for Freedom's Song

Sawyer (Echoes of Mercy) again digs into history in this enjoyable faith-filled adventure about an indentured servant on a popular riverboat. In 1860, Fanny Beck is the star singer aboard the River Peacock steamboat, but also a prisoner between shows, as she’s indentured to Sloan Kirkpatrick for a seven-year contract. Fanny dreams of escape, praying that one day she’ll reunite with her family in New York City. Then Fanny learns that Sloan plans not to honor the end date of the contract, and, when a fire breaks out on the boat, she escapes. Fanny’s long trek to freedom includes traveling witha family of escaped slaves, sleeping aboard train cars, and singing for money—and then Sloan pursues her upon learning she survived the fire. After Fanny arrives in Gideon, Ind., she finds a sobbing child alone in a cabin and meets the girl’s father, Walter Kuhn, who recently injured himself. He works out a deal for Fanny to care for the girl in order to earn train fare until Walter’s mail-order bride arrives. But plans change when a relationship between the two kindles. Sawyer’s episodic narrative and rich assortment of characters fighting for freedom provide the story with many twists and unexpected side-plots. The author’s fans will love this. (Oct.) — Publishers Weekly

“Kim Vogel Sawyer has once again written a delightful, heartwarming tale of romance and adventure. Readers will come to love Fanny and Walter—and perhaps even the “villain,” Sloan—all compelling characters, each of whom journeys to a moment of gripping revelation and change. Don’t miss this engaging story.” — Louise M. Gouge, award-winning author of Winning Amber

“A truly enjoyable and riveting read. Young Fanny’s character captured me right from the start. A beautifully told story of the priceless value of freedom.” — Melody Carlson, author of the Legacy of Sunset Cove series

“Kim Sawyer is known for her long list of uplifting and hope-filled novels, but Freedom’s Song may be her best yet. Deftly weaving the theme of freedom through an unforgettable story of love and escape, Kim delivers a tale that readers will not soon forget. The characters will jump off the page and into your heart, and the message will bring you hope.” — Kathleen Y’Barbo, a Publishers Weekly
bestselling author of The Yes Dare, book 3 of the Pies, Books & Jesus Book Club series

“Kim Vogel Sawyer writes classic Christian fiction at its finest. Freedom’s Song is no exception. I didn’t want it to end, but it ended the way I wanted it to—that is a great book.” — Tracey Bateman, author of The Nanny Proposal

Freedom’s Song is a heartwarming story of God’s perfect timing and provision. Out of the darkness of indentured servitude emerges a sweet romance and a strong story of hope that will resonate with readers. Fanny, the heroine, is inspiring because she never gives up and she clings to her faith in spite of the difficult things she faces. Another great read from Kim Sawyer.” — Vickie McDonough, bestselling author of more than fifty novels and novellas, including The Anonymous Brid
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Freedom's Song


On the Mississippi River, near Monticello, Missouri

Mid-April, 1860

Fanny Beck

Thunderous applause. Cries of “Encore, encore!”

Fanny Beck bowed her head in humble acknowledgment and gratitude. Da had told her she’d been given a special gift by the Almighty to use for His glory. Ever since she was a wee girl, she’d relished enthusiastic responses to her singing, seeing the praise as an offering to the One her parents had taught her to love and honor.

With memories of Da and Ma warming her heart, she lifted her face, held her arms in a graceful position as if bestowing an offering, and burst into the song she always saved for when the audience clamored for an encore, “ ‘Come, let us join our cheerful songs with angels round the throne.’ ”

This hymn by Isaac Watts, offering adoration to the Lamb of God, wasn’t a favorite of Sloan’s. He often reminded her that her voice belonged to him because he’d indentured her, but he had given her permission to choose her own encore. She sang all five stanzas with heartfelt thanks for her Lord and Savior.

She sang the final note an octave higher than written and then dropped into a deep curtsy. While the audience proved their appreciation with resounding applause for several minutes, she remained in the pose she’d learned from the woman Sloan had hired to tutor her. The accolades continued, but Fanny’s limbs began to tremble. She straightened and caught sight of Burke, her assigned watcher for the evening, gesturing to her from the edge of the riverboat’s stage.

Standing behind a fall of shimmering red velvet, he was concealed from the audience. But Fanny was aware of his presence. Of the unwavering glare beneath his thick gray eyebrows, the scowl framed by untamed whiskers, and—mostly—the unspoken warning. If the applauding attendees could see his dour face or the stern jerk of his arm that signaled, Come here now! would any of them ponder why the young singer billed as the Darling of the River Peacock was kept under constant observation and summoned so harshly?

She faced the still clamoring crowd, touched her fingertips to her lips, then swung her arms wide, as if showering them with kisses, the way Sloan had instructed her to bid farewell. Then she pulled the folds of her black velvet cloak over her dress. As heavy and cumbersome as the cloak was to wear, she welcomed its coverage. Her performance dresses, all commissioned by Sloan in bawdy colors with plunging necklines, left her feeling exposed and indecent. Neither Da nor Ma would have approved indenturing her to Sloan if they had known she’d be dressed up like a strumpet.

With another bow of her head to her admiring audience, she left the stage, mindful of the rolling motion of the riverboat beneath her feet. The wind must be stout tonight. The moment she reached Burke, he grabbed the hood of her cloak and jerked it over her head.

She frowned. Sloan didn’t want her wearing the hood. He’d said the cloak’s red satin lining was too pretty against the rich black velvet to stay fully hidden. “Besides,” he’d added, his gaze roving over her the way men examined a horse before purchasing it, “part of your appeal is your bonny face and dark-brown hair shot through with strands of red-gold. Why not let the men admire one of God’s most lovely creations?”

If he saw her with her head covered, he’d rage at her. She reached to remove it.

“Leave it,” Burke said.

Fanny paused with her fingers pinching the edge of the hood. “Why?”

“It’s rainin’. We can’t have you drippin’ like a drowned rat. You’re gonna need to look fresh for the eleven o’clock show.”

She had a full hour to dry and refashion her hair. She could tell him so, but why bother? She never won arguments with Sloan or Burke. Sometimes she argued anyway, if only for the sake of entertaining herself and utilizing her wits. But the hour was late, the weather was foul, and she preferred to reach her room for a much-needed rest.

She stifled a yawn. If only she could eat a little supper, crawl into her warm berth, and not have to get out again. But nothing would entice Sloan to cancel the late-night Friday show. During the program reserved for the male passengers, wine and other spirits poured freely, and in their drunkenness the men tossed coin after coin onto the stage at her feet. Of course, she wasn’t allowed to collect those coins. Stage workers gathered them up and turned them over to Sloan.

A shudder rattled her frame, brought on by guilt and worry. Sloan would be furious if he knew her secret. But she was furious, too. Her term of service should end in August this year. Yet on her customary daily supervised stroll around the deck a few weeks ago, she’d overheard him instructing a couple to be certain to cruise again at Christmastime, when Miss Fainche Beck would deliver a special concert. She’d asked her escort, an elderly man nearly crippled by arthritis and nicknamed Cricket for the way his hip joints creaked when he walked, to take her to Sloan. Cricket had complied and stood silently while she reminded Sloan she’d be off this boat well before Christmas.

She would never forget the fury in Sloan’s green eyes or the way he leaned within inches of her face and growled, “I’ll let you know when you’re free to leave this boat, and until then you’ll do as I say if you have any intelligence at all.”

She’d proved her intelligence—or her cowardice—by holding back further words of complaint, but she’d continued to rebel in her mind. And apparently she’d won Cricket’s compassion. Because after that, each time he was given charge of accompanying her on her stroll, he sneaked her a coin or two. At first she hesitated to accept the five-, ten-, and twenty-dollar gold pieces. If they were caught, they would surely suffer dire consequences. But he told her, “These’re some tossed on the stage as thanks for your pretty singin’. You earned ’em, Miss Fanny. Ain’t ya gonna need travel money to get to yer folks?”

How many times had she prayed for God’s provision for transport to the Manhattan borough of New York City, where Da, Ma, and her little sisters had settled? Who was she to say that God hadn’t prompted the old man to lend aid? God often used unlikely means and people to further His will. Besides, Cricket was right. She had earned them. So she gratefully accepted the coins. Closed in her private room, she’d wrapped each coin with a bit of cloth and hid them in her muslin dimity pocket. Sloan had many rules for her and only one for the crew concerning her: “Hands off.” The pouch, tied by a string around her waist beneath her layers of skirts, was safe from discovery. She wore it day and night, its pressure against her hip bone a silent promise that she would join her family someday.

Burke escorted her through the unlit corridor behind the stage and out to the covered deck. Lanterns hanging from overhead beams poked holes in the darkness, but they did little to cheer the night. Not a soul, not even the usual cigar smokers, lounged on the chair-lined, gleaming teakwood-paneled deck. And small wonder, for lightning slashed the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance. Fat raindrops, blown sideways by gusts of wind, pummeled the water and the paddleboat’s tin roof with nearly as much clamor as the applause she’d left behind. Not even her hood protected her face from the onslaught. She hunched forward and shivered, the leather soles of her embroidered silk slippers sliding on the wet deck.

Burke, amazingly agile for a man who must be as old as Da, cupped her elbow and kept her upright. At the entry to the lower level, Burke released her arm. She stood shivering while he lifted the angled door built of thick planks joined with metal bands, his arm muscles bulging against the faded gray fabric of his shirt. He left the door open and led her down the warped wooden stairs to the lowest level—the level reserved for the lowliest of the crew—where Fanny had spent the majority of her life for close to seven years. The moist, cool breeze followed them.

About the Author

Kim Vogel Sawyer
Kim Vogel Sawyer is a highly acclaimed, bestselling author with more than 1.5 million books in print in seven different languages. Her titles have earned numerous accolades including the ACFW Carol Award, the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award, and the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence. Kim lives in central Kansas with her retired military husband, Don, where she continues to write gentle stories of hope. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find her petting cats, packing Operation Christmas Child boxes, or spending time with her daughters and grandchildren. More by Kim Vogel Sawyer
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