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The Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright
In The Amalgamation Polka, Liberty Fish is the son of a northern abolitionist married to a Southern belle from a South Carolina plantation. Her parents are brutal slaveowners and she has moved north and cut all ties with them, although the pain caused by this family divorce threatens to undo her. Their New York house is a stop on the Underground Railroad, much to the dislike of their neighbors. Liberty is old enough to be a soldier when the Civil War is unleashed, and he joins the Union Army. Once in the south, he goes AWOL to confront the grandparents who have caused his mother so much grief. Stephen Wright attempts to capture not just the family drama, but a society undergoing wholesale changes to its structure and morals. The Amalgamation Polka has received mostly positive reviews with the San Diego Union-Tribune saying, "Wright's work surpasses 'good book' and has all the elements of enduring art: a high purpose, a masterful use of language, engrossing conflict, catharsis. More than this, The Amalgamation Polka, the book with the deceptively frivolous title, does what we ask all great literature to do: It inspires us to a loftier destiny."