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Publisher's Summary

Deeply moving and illuminating, Trouble the Water reveals the little-known real-life story of Robert Smalls. Born enslaved before the Civil War, Smalls witnesses great privilege and immense suffering alongside his owner's daughter and the dangerous son of a firebrand secessionist. When he's only 12, 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 attempts a harrowing escape to 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.

©2019 Rebecca Dwight Bruff (P)2020 Rebecca Dwight Bruff

What listeners say about Trouble the Water

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  • 09-25-21

Excellent story

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It brought the characters and times alive. Th narration was excellent. I had never heard of Robert Smals before and I found his life to be fascinating and one people should hear. It would make a great movie. The only issue I had was with a technical audio glitch around chapter 41 with the playback of the narration of Jane McKee. That was very unfortunate for an otherwise outstanding audiobook.

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A first rate reading by Gerald C Rivers

This was one of the best audiobooks I've listened to this year. Bruff's story was remarkably researched and her telling compelling. High marks to Gerald C Rivers for his voice of Smalls. He brought the story alive. Highly recommend.

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Great character development

The book is very insightful as to what motivates individuals and how people can learn and grow over time. I enjoyed all the theological references. I thought there would be a lot of military history but the book was more about people, which I loved.

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Amazing!!

This book was so incredibly well written I just cannot believe it !! I enjoyed the people who read it also!! I learned a lot!!

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Lovely story and narrator gave it life

I loved the story, I was intrigued the entire time. I loved the narrator and the voice of the woman who wrote in her journal. I enjoyed it from beginning to end!

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Playback issues

While I enjoyed the story itself, playback issues with the character of Jane around chapter 40 and beyond made it difficult to enjoy.

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Not Quite the Novel Robert Smalls Deserves

Bruff writes about Robert Smalls with eloquence and insight. But I wish this had had a better developmental editor. The story would have been stronger if it had stayed with Smalls's POV rather than veering into the heads of White characters. The pacing is also off in the last third. The big event, the Civil War, comes out of nowhere, as if there were missing chapters, and flits by too fast. I also wish Bruff had dramatized Smalls's postbellum life more. His five terms in Congress get a mere sentence. I'm in favor of anything that publicizes Smalls's story, but this isn't quite the novel he deserves.

Additionally, the audiobook had issues. The main narrator, Gerald C. Rivers, was wonderful and has a fine singing voice. But there were places where the playback seemed to skip, where it repeated, and where it was muffled, especially with the interspliced female narrator.