Russell Banks's gift for creating compelling stories populated by gritty and startlingly real characters has resulted in such acclaimed masterworks as Continental Drift, The Sweet Hereafter, and his most recent bestseller, Rule of the Bone. Now Banks takes on one of American history's most misunderstood figures, John Brown, whose October 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia, crossed the line from civil protest to armed struggle, prefiguring the greatest conflagration in this country's history. Narrated by the enigmatic abolitionist's son Owen, the novel dazzlingly re-creates the fractured political and social landscape of pre-Civil War America, when slavery and talk of secession were tearing the country apart. But Cloudsplitter is about much more than one man's quest for political change and social justice. It is a moving and powerfully told story of fathers and sons, of racial conflict and division, as well as an intimate portrait of 19th-century family life. Rich in incident and exquisite detail, Cloudsplitter is the novel that will elevate Russell Banks to the highest rank of 20th-century American authors.