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The Loom

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A slave is torn between the love she has and the life she doesn’t.

Lydia was a common slave with a common life until the day she entered a world no slave had gone before. Pale skin and deceit opened the door to wealth and a power she had only dreamed of. But what she didn’t count on was falling in love. What she didn’t realize was life was not always black or white.

312 pages, Paperback

First published December 1, 2011

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About the author

Shella Gillus

1 book17 followers
Shella Gillus fell in love with the arts as a child. By age ten, she wrote her first chapter book, a three-act play and performed in several theatrical shows. During her teenage years, she penned and performed in plays for her local church and organized a series of summer self-esteem workshops for underprivileged youth in South Tucson.

Shella earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Arizona and Screen Actor’s Guild membership while working in the film industry in Los Angeles. Under the tutelage of a skilled playwright, she honed her skills as a writer before becoming a professional actress for Childsplay, an award-winning theatre company. Shella was crowned Miss Black Heritage, 1st runner-up Miss Black Arizona, Miss Congeniality, Copper Bowl Princess and University of Arizona Homecoming Royalty. She has made two appearances on the Oprah Winfrey show. The Loom is her fiction debut. She lives with her husband, Stacey, and their two children, Spencer and Staci, in Dallas.

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5 stars
369 (23%)
4 stars
579 (36%)
3 stars
449 (28%)
2 stars
142 (9%)
1 star
38 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 160 reviews
Profile Image for Barbara.
Author 3 books28 followers
August 16, 2012
I wish that my review could do justice to this powerful novel - rich with characters that will linger in my memory for a long time. To say this was well written does not do it justice. I read through it rather rapidly the first time, but once I read the “Author’s Notes” at the end I knew I must read it again slowly to savor the pictures painted with amazing skill. As I re-read, I studied the flow of words which revealed the characters with beauty and clarity. Some have written that the story is implausible. I felt like I was viewing amazing events that were not coincidences, but God orchestrating His hand in the lives of these characters. I like a book that challenges me to think. Beyond the beauty of Shella’s words and story are Biblical parallels and thought provoking messages for our own lives. I am anticipating – hoping that this talented author will continue to create historical novels that are beautiful portraits of characters that I wish I actually knew.
Profile Image for Donna Bennett.
124 reviews11 followers
February 9, 2013
The Loom by Shella Gillus is a debut novel. I downloaded a free Kindle edition. The book cover is so compelling and looks like a story to draw you in. This was a book I was so anxiously waiting to read. As a lover of historical fiction, it’s a heart wrenching story of love and redemption set in the Pre-Civil War era. Lydia (aka Caroline) a slave in the pre-Antebellum south, is so light-skinned that she learns she can pass for white and in spite of being in love with John, a field hand. It was a very slow almost painful start. I had to keep backtracking just to keep up. I felt there where to many subplots and overall the story was just not believable for the time period and the end left me with many unanswered questions, like who was Lydia's mother? How did she inherit her pale skin? This story of the main character passing was improbable just based on the proximity of the two plantations. I didn't think it was feasible that a slave who had tried to escape before but was captured and beaten wouldn't be sought after by her owner and found almost immediately especially since she was still so close to home. However I also thought that the reasoning behind why she left John who she was supposed to love without so much as an explanation was not exploited enough. There are numerous characters whose stories are introduced but not in depth. Lou, Ruth, and Odessa were a bit unclear to me as to their relations to the main characters. Maybe I missed it, but the connection between freedom and the loom were never made in my opinion. I expected, based on the title for the book to focus on the loom as its symbolism. I just never saw its connection to the overall story. I kept waiting and waiting for a twist or something insanely exciting to brighten this plot. Gillus makes good use of imagery and the story has a spiritual undercurrent to it that makes it amiable. I would tell Gillus, just introduce us to the amazing characters and let us fall in love with them. I feel lying dormant inside of Shella Gillus is a truly gifted writer. Although it was hard to follow at times it really wasn't a terrible book. I look forward to reading more from this author. The book had the potential to be great literature. Lydia's spiritual journey, gave me a little something to think about after I put the book down. This is surely one of the better free reads available.
Profile Image for Darlene.
125 reviews
July 25, 2012
This is a wonderful love story. Different from what you might expect since it is during the era of slavery. Lydia/Caroline in her desire to be free must choose between her love for John, her husband who is a slave and Jackson a slave owner. In this quest, Lydia/Caroline finds and learns to love who she is. This book is full of intrigue and suspense and was a joy to read.
Profile Image for Beth.
443 reviews9 followers
June 25, 2018
Parts were hard to follow because the female character names all started with L and male with J. After reading the prologue this was by design, and reading the prologue made me appreciate the book even more than I did after I finished it.

The lives of the slaves were horrible, some only ever wanted to be free, others to just die and be done with the torture.

Worth the time to read, pay attention to the names and the symbolism in the book, it is really striking.
Profile Image for Tara Chevrestt.
Author 27 books295 followers
June 11, 2013
This story had me on the edge of my seat. I honestly didn't think it would end well and I so desperately wanted it to...the suspense darn near killed me.

Lydia is a slave--a very light-skinned slave. She wants freedom more than love and this leads to her leaving her husband, a slave named John, because she discovers she can pass as white and does so. This lifestyle is not without its daily fear, lies, and repercussions though.

Good points: I like the little message within...that Lydia merely traded one life of slavery for another, that women back then were slaves, no matter their color. Only the white MEN had true freedom.

I loved the romance between her and John, though I confess I liked John more than I liked Lydia and didn't feel she deserved him.

I loved how this book made you stop and look around you and realize it isn't material things that make a body happy; it's the emotional. You can be dirt poor and find joy. You can be surrounded by luxuries and be miserable. This is something we too often forget and need reminding of.

I liked the unique story line. I enjoyed learning about most of the slaves' lives, though I was left with a lot of questions, more questions than answers.

Bad points: I truly didn't for one minute buy into how easily Lydia turned her back on her own people and switched sides. No. There's no way a slave can just step into the role of slave-owner with such ease.

While I enjoyed the side glimpses into the others' lives, they went nowhere and ended up making no sense. Abram and his healing powers? What was that for/about? Cora's parentage..who cares? What did this have to do with the story?

Lots of things just didn't make sense in the end. 1. Why didn't John just TELL Lydia the truth once he found her at Jackson's, living as a white woman? All that pain, fear, running...for NOTHING? 2. If she was so dang miserable in the white world, why did she stay? Nobody was looking for her. There was no huge slave hunt. She could have walked away just as easily as she walked onto that land. 3. Why did Henry drop dead? What from? Seriously a huge WTF moment. His buddies are fighting and behind them, HE suddenly drops dead?

And lastly, who was Lydia's mother? Why was she so white? Her father was not a light-colored person. I sensed an opportunity for a good sub plot here that was never explored.
Profile Image for Charity.
203 reviews16 followers
December 15, 2011
Have you ever read a book and took your time with it? I recently received a book by Shella Gillus called, The Loom. And believe me, take my time is exactly what I did with this. It is a book that deals with some interesting plots and I can't wait to tell you about it. It will change the way you think about some things.

This is a book that is somewhat different. I haven't read many from a black persons point of view. But I found it to be eye opening. It opens with a girl trying to escape to freedom. She makes it a ways away and then gets caught and brought back. This is very sad as it shows her viewpoint of the light of freedom and then being captured. I think some authors use the slavery plight as a guilt trip, but Shella does not do that. She shows the facts as they were, in a blunt but true fashion.

I felt bad for Caroline and I wanted to slap her husband. I know that many times back then, this is how things played out, but it still didn't make it any easier. This book deals with so many aspects and this one is one of the major ones. I know the book doesn't portray it as major but to me, it was a big part of the book. The awful feeling of knowing you no longer have your husbands affection. Then when she blows up at him and everything goes back to normal. How could he?

Sadie is the young girl who tries escaping in the beginning but then she is brought back to the plantation. She gets much wisdom from the older women who work in the Loom Room. These are the women who can't work in the fields anymore or are injured too badly. She and her young man are very sweet together and I had a hard time not crying at different parts. They so badly want freedom and yet it is kept from them.

Overall this is a good book that will make you think. This is not a light romance that you will smile at and be happy when it is done. This will push your thinking towards other things. Excellent plot and well written!

I received a copy of this book for review purposes. I did not receive any monetary compensation. All thoughts are 100% mine.
Profile Image for Gigi Williams.
9 reviews2 followers
July 14, 2012
Right now this my FAVORITE story! I'm trying desperately to convince my husband to read it. I fell in love with Lydia from the very beginning. At times, I hated her. I am fortunate enough to live in a rich society where slavery has long past. I have never put much thought into how hard survival was in that time period. It almost makes me ashamed to be white. My heart went out to the trials and struggles the slaves on the Kelly Farm went through on a daily basis. It has me feeling very humbled.
The rich characters if this story were SO well written. I felt I could relate to each and every one of them. As Lydia struggles between love and freedom, her heart is torn in different directions. Even though I was angry at several of her decisions, I cant honestly say I wouldn't have made the same mistakes. The character "John" is simply amazing! The author said he was to depict a "Christ like" character, and that ye did very well! I told my husband I like to prtend he's like John. lol. I know in my heart, if he was John and I was Lydia, he would have the same strength and determination to conquer freedom AND love at the same time, just as John did. I cant say enough wonderful things about this story. it will live in my heart for quite a while to come. Just talking about it makes me want to read it again. ;)
Profile Image for Emily.
652 reviews37 followers
March 2, 2012
It is entirely my fault. I was at a new-to-me library and and picked up the first pretty book to catch my eye. Well, it turned out that I picked up a book published by Guideposts. It is written by a lovely woman and the first two chapters have some beautiful language and the glimmer of some sweet ideas, but it desperately needs an editor and a proofreader. Will not finish and, sadly, do not recommend.
Profile Image for Sara.
4 reviews
August 17, 2012
This book made me remember anew how much blood is on my hands s a white person in the US. How my comfort comes at the cost so much human suffering and still does. Slavery is sin we all pay for and the root of the resentment we collectively feel about blacks. Their presence is a constant reminder of our collective guilt.

This story is beautifully written and compelling. It's well worth reading and though it broke my heart in places, I'm glad I read it.
Profile Image for Lori.
255 reviews
October 23, 2015
What a beautiful story!! These mirrored quotations sum it up:

"Every prize had a price. For everything she wanted there attached to it like the thorn of a rose was the thing she didn't. But life was worth the risk no matter what was lost..."

"..every price had a prize. For everything she didn't want, there attached to it like the rose of a thorn was the thing she did. But the loss was worth the life, no matter what the risk..."

Profile Image for Melissa Aguirre.
117 reviews2 followers
December 5, 2015
This story was beautifully mesmerizing and the characters were so "real". As I read, I felt like I was there, alongside Lydia (Caroline) and I could actually feel her pain, sorrow, love, fear and desperation to be free. This book is a keeper.
Profile Image for Emily Drenberg.
2 reviews1 follower
November 23, 2019
This is a powerful novel - rich with characters that will linger. It's an amazing love story during an incredibly horrific time in history. This book shows slaves as HUMAN instead of property.

White people need to read this to be reminded of what our history was so we can endeavor to NEVER let this happen again.

Black people need to read this book to celebrate the amazing talent of one of their own.

I assign this book as extra credit in my English classes. It's a wonderful testament to the talent of a young African American women. It's a great test for young readers because of the many shifts in in time and characters. One must pay attention while reading. I recommend this book!
Profile Image for DawnMarie Helin.
38 reviews
January 7, 2022
I loved this novel. I enjoyed the rush details and I cried at the injustices. It’s a story of love enduring. It’s a story of a love for life that can only come from faith. It’s dark history and bad times. Yet I read the story with hope and tears in my eyes. Some of it was hard to read because of the losses endured by slaves. Yet I believe it needs to be read

This book was published in 2011 and I wish the author had written more. I’m also very curious how she would write this book in 2022. It was very well written, with wonderful characters and stories.
Profile Image for Wendy.
473 reviews1 follower
February 23, 2019
Sigh. This book is well written but I almost didn't finish it because the main character makes such a colossally stupid decision as to border on insanity. I can only suspend my disbelief so far. I read the authors notes at the end & understand the symbolism behind the choice but in the plot flow of the book it was jarring. It would be like someone committing murder on live TV & expecting no one to notice.
May 3, 2019
Interesting historical fiction, however, the characters names were confusing as they were all beginning with L. A few scenes felt a little jumbled, and made me have to re-read what had just happened. I did enjoy the book, but I wish the author had tried a little harder for clarity.
Profile Image for Kathi Olsen.
476 reviews
December 16, 2019
This is a book of fiction. There are some things that were real from the time period, but the relationships are sometimes rather contrived. I did enjoy parts of this book, but will not plan on reading it again.
Profile Image for Cortney Young.
9 reviews1 follower
January 13, 2021
It took me a little while to get into it, but the final third kept me snuggled up on the couch. At one point I was yelling at my husband about what was happening...! Good story with interesting twists. The concept of white-passing as a privilege is depicted very well in this book.
Profile Image for Cindy Doro.
18 reviews
June 9, 2017
Good read

Enjoyed this book very much. Read it on vacation on the beach. Good characters and held my interest. Would read this author again.
50 reviews1 follower
July 21, 2017
I did not find the characters at all credible. I quickly became bored with the book and moved on to something else. I returned and speed read my way through. The book did not improve.
5 reviews
February 21, 2018

It took me awhile to become enthralled but after a few chapters, I became hooked. I was feverishly anticipating what the next chapter entailed.
Profile Image for Natha.
34 reviews
June 19, 2018
I’ve had this book on my “to read” list a long time. I enjoy historical fiction and was looking forward to reading it. I was very disappointed...the book is poorly written and somewhat confusing.
March 29, 2021
Too many adjetives

History of slavery. The ability of people caught up in slavery to remain brave and sane.Bury the four more stupid
Profile Image for Connie.
174 reviews2 followers
June 22, 2021
Beautiful writing. Lydia is a girl hoping for freedom with the luck of being light skinned enough to achieve some sort of freedom. It’s just not the freedom she hoped for.
Profile Image for Tika.
190 reviews40 followers
February 21, 2012
Hmpf. This book sidelined me with religion, and I wasn't super-pleased about it. I wouldn't have minded if the story weren't completely contrived; I know there are stories about black slaves "passing" as whites pre-Civil War (and also later, but that's not what's going on in this book), and I don't doubt that it happened. But those people would have had to think much more carefully about what they were about than Gillus did for her characters, and instead of emphasizing the bravery of those people for breaking barriers, the author only had me cringing for the naivety of the people she invented.

Profile Image for Tina.
68 reviews4 followers
August 13, 2012
It was a very good book. There were some aspects of the book that I just didn't see as being "real" - like the relationship between Lizzy and Lydia - Lydia is beautfiful and Lizzy doesn't have a jealous bone in her body? They are teenagers and Lizzy still "loves" Lydia the way she did when she was a girl. Other books, true and fictional, I've read the "Masters" children learn to let go and move upward and onward leaving their "friends" alone and in there place. But Lizzy actually encourages Lydia to become "white". I just found that a little unbelievable. Also, from other books I've read when they have such light skin no one really wants them and they are a little shunned by both the black and the white people. But, the author doesn't really indicate a year and perhaps people of certain regions weren't as hard as in other areas? I'm not sure. In reading Queen, by Alex Haley she was really light skinned and she was abused more than most. No one really wanted her and the white people didn't trust her, she had such a hard, sad life. So I guess I may have been comparing this character with her. I loved John! What an awesome guy. I was really disappointed when the book ended and am truly hoping that the author has a sequel in mind. I just really want to see John and Lydia living free, making a really good living and raising their babies and I really want to see how their lives change. Will they have to go north in order to find the peace and employment to keep them going or will the southerners let them live there? Will Lydia open a little dress boutique and continue the tradition of working the loom, creating her own designs? John, being a black smith (welder), how far will his career take him? What kind of struggles will they face? I can't wait for the rest of the story................
Displaying 1 - 30 of 160 reviews

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