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Augustus Cain faces a past he wants to forget, a present without prospect or fortune, and an uncertain future marred by the loss of his most prized possession: the horse that has been his working companion for years. He is also a man haunted by a terrible skill—the ability to track people who don't want to be found.

Rosetta is a runaway slave fueled by the passion and determination only a mother can feel. She bears the scars—inside and out—of a life lived in servitude to a cruel and unforgiving master. Her flight is her one shot at freedom, and she would rather die than return to the living hell that she has left behind.

In the perilous years before the Civil War, the fates of these two remarkable people will intertwine in an extraordinary adventure—a journey of hardship and redemption that will take them from Virginia to Boston and back—and one that will become an extraordinary test of character and will, mercy and compassion. It is an odyssey that will change them both forever.

Soul Catcher is a dazzling tapestry of imagination and character, atmosphere and emotion. Poignant and utterly compelling, it is a story to be savored and remembered.

Published: HarperCollins on Oct 13, 2009
ISBN: 9780061869860
List price: $10.99
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To me this was a perfect novel. Pre-Civil War slave hunter Augustus Cain learns humanity as he chases a runaway slave up and down the east coast. Really a great read, exciting and page turning. I liked it almost as much as I liked Sweetsmoke by David Fuller - and that's saying something. Highly Recommended.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In many ways, this reminded me of another book I loved, Cold Mountain. Both have characters motivated by love traveling throught a brutal yet beautiful part of America. This story is about Augustus Cain, a down on his luck slave catcher, called soul catcher by slaves, who is hired by a wealthy man to catch and return two of his runaway slaves. He is most particularly interested in the return of Rosetta, the female who has run away before. Driven by the need to make money to get back on his feet and the belief that he is obeying the law by returning property to its rightful owner, Cain's mission gets complicated by his fellow slave-catchers, abolitionists and Rosetta herself. This is a beautifully written novel about an ugly period in American history. The characters and setting were so well-drawn that I was able to clearly imagine the story as it unfolded. What a great book!read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Can the good in a man’s heart overcome all outside forces? This is a dilemma Augustus Cain must decide. Cain was raised to be a Southerner plantation owner, with all the responsibilities that entailed. However, Cain was an adventurous young man with the world to see which leads him to the Mexican War. Because of this war, he has a life he wants to forget and becomes a Soul Catcher. He has the ability to track runaway slaves in the North. He wants to leave the profession, but gambling losses keep returning him to an occupation he dislikes, until he meets Rosetta, a young beautiful, blue-eyed slave that changes his feeling about slavery. This is a story that cannot be forgotten.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
It's odd to say that I adored a book about slavery. But I LOVED this book. The characters were some of the most interesting I have read in a long time. I loathed them, felt sorry for them, fell in love with them, and cheered for them. I'm glad the ending wasn't as predictable as I thought it was going to be. Bravo Mr. White...well done.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I got this book through the early reviewer's program, and i could not finish it. While the premise had some promise, the story's execution was weak and I never connected with Livia or the other characters in the book.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Soul Catcher is a solid adventure tale set sometime between 1855 and 1859, following the changing fortunes and heart of a slave hunter. I enjoyed reading it for pleasure, and as a part of my study of the craft of writing historical fiction. If the theme interests you, it's worth your time to read.

That said, I have two problems with the book. The first concerns the figure of John Brown himself, whose life is sufficiently well known to make it impossible to imagine a time in which he would personally have led a group of armed abolitionists in the East chasing slave hunters. The author would have done much better not to name his soul catcher chasing John Brown character "John Brown." This criticism comes simply from knowing too much history for my own good. I recognize it as a danger any writer of historical fiction faces: the story must be written in the interstices of the known, in the spaces between the incontrovertible facts, in those places and moments where we hope the reader is sufficiently ignorant that we may play our tricks as writers. It may be necessary to estimate how much of the history is known to your audience, and hope that they are not experts. You always run the danger of finding a reader who simply knows too much to suspend disbelief and follow you into your story. Unfortunately I am one of those readers.

Second, I asked myself repeatedly whether the relationship between the slave catcher and the woman he first catches, and then develops a more complicated relationship with, really was imaginable in the mid-nineteenth century. Sometimes I thought "yes" but too often I found myself wondering whether these were not modern ideas and people, placed in the mouths and clothes of 19th century characters. This too is a recognizably difficult problem for any writer. When we write a story set in the past, what elements of obvious modernity shall we allow to remain? And what elements of the period do we bring forward to signify that we are situated in the past? White, for example, brings forward period details about horses and guns and slave catching, and quite a few 19th century expressions (at least they sound to me like 19th century expressions.) These were all quite well deployed. But if we desire to know also the inner emotional lives of 19th century characters, then an author faces a much greater challenge. I'm not sure that I'm up to meeting it myself as a writer, but I'm not entirely persuaded by White's effort to do so either. Would the central relationship described in this book even be possible in its time and place? Is it possible on the terms and with the feelings that the characters express here? What did love and sex really feel like, and how did they express themselves in the 19th century? And if we grasp that, then how would the unique situation of this slave chaser and this former slave modify these realities?

These difficulties aside, the author does a very credible job of building a range of supporting characters who struck me as thoroughly 19th century in their aspects. Again, their persuasiveness may be related to the exteriority with which they are portrayed. Writing nineteenth century exteriors (surfaces, language, clothing, expressions) is one thing, but writing 19th century interiors a whole other literary challenge.

Finally, to White's credit the conclusion of the book doesn't take the easy way out, and by steering his tale away from the easy romantic possibilities that his story offers, White in the end writes a convincing tale of a southern man's journey through life. If we are not entirely persuaded by every one of the emotions and conversations that pass on the way, the larger arc of the life that is portrayed seems true to its time and place.

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Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Like the reviewer below, I too love a good Civil War era drama and ever since my recent reading of Gone With the Wind, haven't really found anything that spectacular. However, this one was REALLY good. While cliches run rampant (Preacher and Eberly have certainly been done before), there still is something about the tortured souls of Cain and Rosetta that kept me reading. Also, some of the supporting cast, including, John Brown himself, were great! But the protagonists were interesting characters with just enough likeability to keep you caring what happened to them. There is plenty of adventure, tidbits about the time and place (including the prior Mexican war) and the fluid and disturbing business of "soul catching." I stayed up well into the night reading this novel and if you like the time, place and subject matter, I highly recommend it. Just a solid, well written, interesting adventure!read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I love a good Civil-War-era/1800s-in-the-U.S. historical fiction novel. And this *was* a good one. Cain is a man who’s more than a little bit lost. He’s basically sleep-walking through life, drunk on either whiskey, laudanum, or both, and gambling for money to live. Except he’s not always a great gambler, and now he’s gotten himself into a debt he can’t run away from. When the man he owes money to wants him to use his tracking skills to bring home his runaway slave, Rosetta, Cain doesn’t really have a choice. Soul Catcher is the story of that journey.Cain is forced to travel with a group of men that you would expect to be slave-catchers… generally either apathetic or downright cruel and sadistic. There is a lot of both the expected and unexpected here, and though I mostly guessed the ending and the decision Cain would make about his life, I never would have guessed the final twist. Some may question how realistic Cain and Rosetta are in their actions and interactions, but I can believe it all the same.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is an excellent book, well written and with a simple yet compelling story. White manages to portray his characters well and also makes the plot and situations within the book realistic and believable.Although this is not a period of history I am particularly familiar with (it is set in pre-civil war America), the details seemed convincing and set a good tone throughout the book.In summary of the plot, Augustus Cain is a 'soul-catcher', making a living from catching runaway slaves. He convinces himself he is just saving money to make a new life. After incurring a large gambling debt, he is forced to take on one last commission. The book follows the story of what happens next, as Cain struggles to find and return the slave - Rosetta - and finds it a harder job than he had hoped for.It has been described as 'beautifully written' and I would agree with this. It's easy to read because it flows so well and yet is full of detail that makes the story richer.I would definitely recommend this book as one to try/buy, whether you enjoy historical fiction or just a good read generally.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Augustus Cain was, if his father had his way, destined to be a successful Virginian cotton farmer; his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy neighbour would ensure this. With the wedding due Cain absconds at the last minute and joins up to fight in the war against Mexico. He eventually returns, now in his thirties, a laudanum dependant gambler down on his luck, and by default a successful slave catcher. Following some bad luck at the gambling table he finds his only way out is to accept one more mission to chase after two escaped slaves. One of these slaves is the strikingly beautiful Rosetta, and it soon becomes clear that Eberly her owner has more than a just a practical interest in her safe return.So begins the tracking, capture and return of the escaped slaves as Cane sets out along with three of Eberly's men; an escapade full of drama, action and passion. They have to contend with abolitionists set on thwarting their effort, other slave catchers intent on stealing their quarry, dubious and untrustworthy characters, and the inhospitable elements. But striking the balance, and this is one of the many merits of the story, they meet several compassionate and understanding individuals.Cane is a well drawn, complex and remarkable character. Educated, a calm, determined and private man, but worn down by failed aspirations, he has a high moral ethic yet cannot escape the impact of his Southern upbringing. Here White is quite masterful in handling the moral question of slavery as Cain struggles with his inherited and accepted attitude on the issue, a view upheld by the law of the land at that time, and his own conscience. Rosetta is no meek and pliant slave, but a force to be reckoned with, full of surprises; and we observe her initial abhorrence of Cane gradually change to admiration and more. The other characters are varied and well filled out too, including some who are appealing, others quite sinister.This is a gripping tale, a little slow to get going as there are initially many digressions as the narrative is interrupted to provide background information, events that occurred earlier in Cain's life (one wonders if it might not have been more effective simply to tell the story chronologically). But eventually the story progresses unhindered and it then often has the reader on the edge of his seat with the tension. Soul Catcher is a very worthy read.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

To me this was a perfect novel. Pre-Civil War slave hunter Augustus Cain learns humanity as he chases a runaway slave up and down the east coast. Really a great read, exciting and page turning. I liked it almost as much as I liked Sweetsmoke by David Fuller - and that's saying something. Highly Recommended.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
In many ways, this reminded me of another book I loved, Cold Mountain. Both have characters motivated by love traveling throught a brutal yet beautiful part of America. This story is about Augustus Cain, a down on his luck slave catcher, called soul catcher by slaves, who is hired by a wealthy man to catch and return two of his runaway slaves. He is most particularly interested in the return of Rosetta, the female who has run away before. Driven by the need to make money to get back on his feet and the belief that he is obeying the law by returning property to its rightful owner, Cain's mission gets complicated by his fellow slave-catchers, abolitionists and Rosetta herself. This is a beautifully written novel about an ugly period in American history. The characters and setting were so well-drawn that I was able to clearly imagine the story as it unfolded. What a great book!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Can the good in a man’s heart overcome all outside forces? This is a dilemma Augustus Cain must decide. Cain was raised to be a Southerner plantation owner, with all the responsibilities that entailed. However, Cain was an adventurous young man with the world to see which leads him to the Mexican War. Because of this war, he has a life he wants to forget and becomes a Soul Catcher. He has the ability to track runaway slaves in the North. He wants to leave the profession, but gambling losses keep returning him to an occupation he dislikes, until he meets Rosetta, a young beautiful, blue-eyed slave that changes his feeling about slavery. This is a story that cannot be forgotten.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
It's odd to say that I adored a book about slavery. But I LOVED this book. The characters were some of the most interesting I have read in a long time. I loathed them, felt sorry for them, fell in love with them, and cheered for them. I'm glad the ending wasn't as predictable as I thought it was going to be. Bravo Mr. White...well done.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I got this book through the early reviewer's program, and i could not finish it. While the premise had some promise, the story's execution was weak and I never connected with Livia or the other characters in the book.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Soul Catcher is a solid adventure tale set sometime between 1855 and 1859, following the changing fortunes and heart of a slave hunter. I enjoyed reading it for pleasure, and as a part of my study of the craft of writing historical fiction. If the theme interests you, it's worth your time to read.

That said, I have two problems with the book. The first concerns the figure of John Brown himself, whose life is sufficiently well known to make it impossible to imagine a time in which he would personally have led a group of armed abolitionists in the East chasing slave hunters. The author would have done much better not to name his soul catcher chasing John Brown character "John Brown." This criticism comes simply from knowing too much history for my own good. I recognize it as a danger any writer of historical fiction faces: the story must be written in the interstices of the known, in the spaces between the incontrovertible facts, in those places and moments where we hope the reader is sufficiently ignorant that we may play our tricks as writers. It may be necessary to estimate how much of the history is known to your audience, and hope that they are not experts. You always run the danger of finding a reader who simply knows too much to suspend disbelief and follow you into your story. Unfortunately I am one of those readers.

Second, I asked myself repeatedly whether the relationship between the slave catcher and the woman he first catches, and then develops a more complicated relationship with, really was imaginable in the mid-nineteenth century. Sometimes I thought "yes" but too often I found myself wondering whether these were not modern ideas and people, placed in the mouths and clothes of 19th century characters. This too is a recognizably difficult problem for any writer. When we write a story set in the past, what elements of obvious modernity shall we allow to remain? And what elements of the period do we bring forward to signify that we are situated in the past? White, for example, brings forward period details about horses and guns and slave catching, and quite a few 19th century expressions (at least they sound to me like 19th century expressions.) These were all quite well deployed. But if we desire to know also the inner emotional lives of 19th century characters, then an author faces a much greater challenge. I'm not sure that I'm up to meeting it myself as a writer, but I'm not entirely persuaded by White's effort to do so either. Would the central relationship described in this book even be possible in its time and place? Is it possible on the terms and with the feelings that the characters express here? What did love and sex really feel like, and how did they express themselves in the 19th century? And if we grasp that, then how would the unique situation of this slave chaser and this former slave modify these realities?

These difficulties aside, the author does a very credible job of building a range of supporting characters who struck me as thoroughly 19th century in their aspects. Again, their persuasiveness may be related to the exteriority with which they are portrayed. Writing nineteenth century exteriors (surfaces, language, clothing, expressions) is one thing, but writing 19th century interiors a whole other literary challenge.

Finally, to White's credit the conclusion of the book doesn't take the easy way out, and by steering his tale away from the easy romantic possibilities that his story offers, White in the end writes a convincing tale of a southern man's journey through life. If we are not entirely persuaded by every one of the emotions and conversations that pass on the way, the larger arc of the life that is portrayed seems true to its time and place.

Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Like the reviewer below, I too love a good Civil War era drama and ever since my recent reading of Gone With the Wind, haven't really found anything that spectacular. However, this one was REALLY good. While cliches run rampant (Preacher and Eberly have certainly been done before), there still is something about the tortured souls of Cain and Rosetta that kept me reading. Also, some of the supporting cast, including, John Brown himself, were great! But the protagonists were interesting characters with just enough likeability to keep you caring what happened to them. There is plenty of adventure, tidbits about the time and place (including the prior Mexican war) and the fluid and disturbing business of "soul catching." I stayed up well into the night reading this novel and if you like the time, place and subject matter, I highly recommend it. Just a solid, well written, interesting adventure!
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I love a good Civil-War-era/1800s-in-the-U.S. historical fiction novel. And this *was* a good one. Cain is a man who’s more than a little bit lost. He’s basically sleep-walking through life, drunk on either whiskey, laudanum, or both, and gambling for money to live. Except he’s not always a great gambler, and now he’s gotten himself into a debt he can’t run away from. When the man he owes money to wants him to use his tracking skills to bring home his runaway slave, Rosetta, Cain doesn’t really have a choice. Soul Catcher is the story of that journey.Cain is forced to travel with a group of men that you would expect to be slave-catchers… generally either apathetic or downright cruel and sadistic. There is a lot of both the expected and unexpected here, and though I mostly guessed the ending and the decision Cain would make about his life, I never would have guessed the final twist. Some may question how realistic Cain and Rosetta are in their actions and interactions, but I can believe it all the same.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
This is an excellent book, well written and with a simple yet compelling story. White manages to portray his characters well and also makes the plot and situations within the book realistic and believable.Although this is not a period of history I am particularly familiar with (it is set in pre-civil war America), the details seemed convincing and set a good tone throughout the book.In summary of the plot, Augustus Cain is a 'soul-catcher', making a living from catching runaway slaves. He convinces himself he is just saving money to make a new life. After incurring a large gambling debt, he is forced to take on one last commission. The book follows the story of what happens next, as Cain struggles to find and return the slave - Rosetta - and finds it a harder job than he had hoped for.It has been described as 'beautifully written' and I would agree with this. It's easy to read because it flows so well and yet is full of detail that makes the story richer.I would definitely recommend this book as one to try/buy, whether you enjoy historical fiction or just a good read generally.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
Augustus Cain was, if his father had his way, destined to be a successful Virginian cotton farmer; his marriage to the daughter of a wealthy neighbour would ensure this. With the wedding due Cain absconds at the last minute and joins up to fight in the war against Mexico. He eventually returns, now in his thirties, a laudanum dependant gambler down on his luck, and by default a successful slave catcher. Following some bad luck at the gambling table he finds his only way out is to accept one more mission to chase after two escaped slaves. One of these slaves is the strikingly beautiful Rosetta, and it soon becomes clear that Eberly her owner has more than a just a practical interest in her safe return.So begins the tracking, capture and return of the escaped slaves as Cane sets out along with three of Eberly's men; an escapade full of drama, action and passion. They have to contend with abolitionists set on thwarting their effort, other slave catchers intent on stealing their quarry, dubious and untrustworthy characters, and the inhospitable elements. But striking the balance, and this is one of the many merits of the story, they meet several compassionate and understanding individuals.Cane is a well drawn, complex and remarkable character. Educated, a calm, determined and private man, but worn down by failed aspirations, he has a high moral ethic yet cannot escape the impact of his Southern upbringing. Here White is quite masterful in handling the moral question of slavery as Cain struggles with his inherited and accepted attitude on the issue, a view upheld by the law of the land at that time, and his own conscience. Rosetta is no meek and pliant slave, but a force to be reckoned with, full of surprises; and we observe her initial abhorrence of Cane gradually change to admiration and more. The other characters are varied and well filled out too, including some who are appealing, others quite sinister.This is a gripping tale, a little slow to get going as there are initially many digressions as the narrative is interrupted to provide background information, events that occurred earlier in Cain's life (one wonders if it might not have been more effective simply to tell the story chronologically). But eventually the story progresses unhindered and it then often has the reader on the edge of his seat with the tension. Soul Catcher is a very worthy read.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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