George McNeish

The Alternative

Is there an alternative to war?

The Alternative explores another possibility.

This book is now avaialble.

Alternative Home Synopsis of The AlternativeAlternative on FaceBook


  • Synopsis: The Alternative
  • Author: George McNeish
    London, Ontario
    N6B 1H3
  • Email:
  • Genre: Fictional History
  • Word Count: about 90,000
  • Number of Pages: 288
  • Format, 6X9 paperback
  • Font/Size: Times New Roman / 12

Synopsis of The Alternative

Truth is stranger than fiction. This book sets out to make more sense than the US civil war. It seems unbelievable that a country would do more damage to themselves than any outside force has ever done. The Alternative explores another possibility that could be more believable.
Bobby Johnson was an only child who had a very kind father. Bobby made friends with his father's slaves and had difficulty understanding why they were treated differently from himself. When the local churches criticized his father for not whipping his slaves, Bobby was confused. The Bible taught love. Why would it insist on treating black people so cruelly? As he got older he became more and more convinced that slavery was wrong and vowed he would never be a slave owner.
Ruthie Lancer had a very difficult childhood. Her mother died due to complications while giving birth to her and her father saw his daughter as the little monster that killed his wife. Mr. Lancer took to strong drink to drown his sorrows. He saw his slaves as work animals that must be whipped to get the most out of them. Ruthie's affection for the slaves was seen as a weakness she inherited from her mother.
Ruthie was raised by slaves and she attempted to protect them from her father. She had a scar on her cheek caused by her father's whip when she placed herself between him and Sheila.
Krissy was her best friend but perhaps she was more like a favourite pet because, although Ruthie didn't believe in being cruel to slaves, she also didn't see them as equals. At fourteen years old, Ruthie discovered that her best friend was pregnant. She experienced the worst day of her life when she learned that, not only her father was responsible for the pregnancy, but that she also had a half brother that was three years younger than herself.
Ruthie and Bobby got married in 1825 after a very rocky courtship. Their attempts to get to know each other were hindered by Ruthie's abusive father and the system of slavery. As they overcame one problem after another, the effects that slavery had on them and others was highlighted.
Although Bobby vowed not to be a slave owner, it was his best friend, Samson, who came up with the plan to end slavery. Samson was weak and not much good for plantation work, so Mr. Johnson had considered selling him. At Bobby's insistance, Samson was kept as a playmate for the young heir. When Bobby came home from school each day, he would often play school with his friend and in that way Samson learned to read and write. Later, when Bobby went north to learn about the Bible away from the influence of the southern preachers, he took Samson along and they both got a college education.
Samson's physical strength was not great, although it did get better when his diet improved. His real strength was in his mind and his unshakable faith in God. Samson married Krissy in a double ceremony with Bobby and Ruthie. Together the foursome went on to change the history of the south.
Would they be able to prevent a war? The characters of this story raced against time to rid the south of an evil system before it could lead to war. Each time they made a little headway, more opposition would arise. In 1861 confederate forces would march on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Was this the begining of the end or did Bobby and his friends manage to change history?
The story discusses the advantages of a cooperative society over a competitive one while showing how love and kindness can triumph over hate and cruelty and how the actions of one man can have a ripple effect that changes the whole society he lives in. It also shows the evils of having different standards for black and white as well as for male and female.
The book is filled with emotional struggles as it shows how slavery affects all who are involved. The romantic struggles are complicated by the system of slavery. Bobby's attempts to end slavery are hindered by the pro-slavery churches and a society that knew nothing but the slavery system for 200 years.
This novel by George McNeish is now available in print and on Kindle. ISBN 978-1519127235. Order on line, from the author, or ask for it at your favourite book store.

Subjects addressed in the Alternative

When a young man discovers that North American slavery is not the will of God, he is opposed by the religious leaders of the South.
We all have heard stories of the evils of slavery but in these pages we look at how it affects families of both colours. For instance, how will the daughter of a slave owner react when she finds out that her father is responsible for getting a slave her own age pregnant? How will a mother respond to news that she will gain her freedom if her daughter is still a slave?
Paul breathed out threatening and persecution of the Christians, Ichabod Kempler preached venomous words against the actions of Bobby, but they both had a dramatic conversion and became strong supporters of the causes they formerly opposed. The conversion of Ichabod was much more humorous as it involved, not a blinding light, but a stubborn mule.
In this book I attempt to examine the emotional effects that slavery had on both the slaves and the slave owners. I look at the effects it had on families, the economy and the overall wellbeing of all the players in the drama. We get inside the heads of those who knew nothing but slavery, both from the slaves point of view and the masters point of view. The difficulty of changing a belief system that was taken for granted for 200 years is examined. Indeed, such belief could only be changed by the power of God, but my characters, although they have faith, are never sure that they are doing things the way God wanted. They were sure He wanted to end slavery, but perhaps by avoiding a devastating war there would not be enough retribution for the evils that had been committed.

Inspiration for the story.

When I became chairman of the Fugitive Slave Chapel Preservation Project in London, Ontario, my wife urged me to write a book about the chapel. In researching this subject I found that John Brown spoke at the Chapel the year before his attack at Harpers Ferry. This led to a study of the Civil War and when I learned of the devastation I began to wonder how a country could have done this to itself. I thought the true story was unbelievable and I set out to write a more believable fictional history of the era.
When reading about John Brown I came across a description of him by Frederick Douglass and was immediately impressed by his perspective. I read all of the writings of Douglass that I could find and became even more impressed by his ability to see things from all points of view. Usually one needs to read many sources to get a complete picture, but Douglass, in his autobiographies, shows how slavery was affecting both slave and master.
My writing has been greatly affected by the perspective of Fredrick Douglass who makes two appearances in the book. I have also been influenced by the writings of Harriet Beecher Stowe, Booker T. Washington and Solomon Northup.

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