3.5 out of 5: James Gates is the love child of a slave woman and a plantation owner. As a young boy, James is freed by his father and sent to a fancy school in England. Before he leaves home, his father shares five life lessons with him: we all suffer, we are all going to die, we are not in control, we do not live for ourselves, and we are free.
Freeman Walker is an old-fashioned adventure story. James (who renames himself Freeman Walker) travels widely in search of freedom, enjoying times of prosperity and health along with times of abject poverty and sickness. Ultimately, James learns that freedom is more a state of mind than a physical condition. His father’s five life lessons follow him wherever he goes with a persistence that’s a bit hokey but that’s not uncommon for such adventure tales. Although Cates’s prose is not particularly interesting or well crafted, he fills Freeman Walker with extraordinary characters and plenty of plot twists to make this tale well worth reading.