“Lost Souls Recovered” by Eric Walker

Lost Souls Recovered

Eric Walker
Torchflame Books (2022)
ISBN: 978-1611534740
Reviewed by Leigh Kimberly Zoby for Reader Views (01/2023)

In the spring of 1887, a servant by the name of John overheard Tyrone and Laura Billingsly discussing the financial ruin they were facing. Tyrone recalls a tale of caches of gold and silver buried on the plantation grounds. The only clue to the treasure’s whereabouts is engraved on a pair of whiskey flasks under lock a key. John, desperate to escape the mental and physical cruelty endured under the hands of Laura Billingsly, devises a plan to steal the flasks to finance his way to a better life down south. After being caught breaking in, a freak accident occurs leading to the death of Ms. Billingsly. John, in fear of his life, makes the heart wrenching decision to leave his mother behind as he tries to escape the relentless pursuit of henchmen set to bring him to justice. Wanting his mother to know the truth behind him leaving so abruptly, John states, “Momma, even in this mean world we live in, I never killed anyone in my life.” 

“Lost Souls Recovered” is a fast-paced adventure that in many ways reminded me of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. This story spans over forty years, leading its reader from Virginia to Alabama. Based upon true events, this historical fiction vividly describes the struggles and challenges the main characters face to survive. Like Jim and Huck, John and Douglas have several harrowing and hilarious moments on their escapades cross country. The back-and-forth banter is comical at times. Especially when they stole a stagecoach not knowing how to control the horses. We also meet numerous other characters with their own stories to be told. From a historic standpoint, this is a great story, but I believe there are too many side stories. I would have liked a few more chapters on the Billingsly’s in order to understand why John was not conflicted in stealing from Tyrone Billingsly, who had always been nice to him. 

Author Eric Walker brings his characters to life through carefully selected dialog exchanges which reflect upon racial tensions in the south post-Civil War. You can feel the love, hate, desperation and fear radiate between the lines. I enjoyed reading the lyrics to the songs of that time period, such as Steal Away Home and Jimmy Cracked Corn. My favorite character is Ann, former slave and mother to John, her backstory is expertly written emanating loss, sacrifice and a fearless strength. The way Mr. Walker writes is entertaining and easy to follow, all while remaining historically accurate. 

“Lost Souls Recovered” is an incredible story. I can easily see this doing well in the Historical Fiction genre as well as numerous spin offs being written to dig deeper into side characters and their lives. I would love to see a book written about the slave Ann’s life and possibly the evil Laura Billingsly as well. 

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