The year is 1862, and the Civil War is in full flame. Cassius Howard, a slave and carpenter on a tobacco plantation, risks everything – extreme punishment, sale to a cotton plantation, even his life – to learn the truth concerning the murder of a freed black woman, a woman who secretly taught him to read and once saved his life. No one gives a damn about her small, rude, unimportant death in the midst of a brutal and hellish war. No one but Cassius, who braves unimaginable dangers to escape the plantation and avenge her death.
Sweetsmoke is Cassius’s journey into knowledge, knowledge that tests him and very nearly destroys him, ultimately guiding him toward freedom.