You know how sometimes you find a character you just take to? Someone you wish well and enjoy reading about? I found that character in May Bedloe, a shy, no-nonsense, self-contained seamstress who goes on to dare bigger things as a single woman in a time fraught with danger, 1838 on the Ohio River. Martha Conway’s new book, The Underground River, raises questions about what one would have done back then on the question of slavery and taking action—stepping up or stepping back—when standing up could risk everything.

Other characters are well drawn, too. There’s a range of them, many of whom are actors and they are an intriguing lot to hang around with. And the idea of a floating theater? Marvelous!

And, happily, Conway has three prior three novels we can enjoy, too: Sugarland, Thieving Forest, 12 Bliss Street.

—Cheryl Suchors