First, thanks to Eric and Heather of Sourcebooks and J.L. Miles for giving me this book to review.
Seventeen-year-old Adie Jenkins is newly married and newly pregnant though not necessarily in that order. Unready for fatherhood, her skirt-chasing husband isn't much help. But in this stunning tale that redefines intimacy, love, and family, Adie discovers hope where she least expects it: from her sweet neighbor Murphy, from the world-wise midwife Willa Mae, and in the worn pages of the diary of slave girl- a girl who is much closer to Adie than she thinks. (from the back of the book)
Normally when I have anything negative to say about a book, I like to start out with the good to sort of soften the blow of the bad. This time, I have to just get it off my chest. I've heard so many people sing the praises of J.L.'s novels. I was hoping to be one of those people. So, let's get down to it.
First, I love a good cliff-hanger as much as the next person, but it drove me to distraction in this book. We find out right away that something has happened to the baby, Annie, but we have to read through the entire first half of the book to find out exactly what happend. 'But what happened to Annie?' was shouting through my head as I finished each paragraph. The same thing happens repeatedly throughout the book. A wonderfully tantalizing tidbit of information is given to us, just enough to keep us on the edge of our seats. Then we're left waiting and wondering to the point that the rest of the story loses all meaning. Just when we finally find out the information that our brain is requesting of us, another cliff-hanger is thrust at us and we have to start all over again. Most of the story was ruined for me because I just couldn't get my brain to get past this concept.
The second problem I had with this book is that everything is just too neatly tied in a bow. Extra characters we don't want in the story? No problem! Let's just kill them off! I get that the entire point of the book is that there are struggles and Adie has to work her way through them. I get that bad things are going to happen. I even get that sometimes a neat little bow is the only way to tie those loose ends together. I just feel like the creativity that's actually thrust into the story could have definitely been used a little better in tieing up those loose ends.
Now, for those of you getting angry at my review, keep in mind that this is just my opinion. On to the good stuff!
During the course of the book we get to read the journal of Tempe, a slave girl. This part of the book alone makes it worth reading. Honestly, were the book nothing but the fictitious Tempe's diary, I'd have happily devoured every single word. It's true to the time and shocking reading. Tempe is alive and vivid. Her situations are incredible and unbelievable, while at the same time being heart-wrenching. I think this was the true masterpiece of the book.
Adie and all the other characters in the book are well-written and well-formed. The story is actually quite interesting and easy to follow if you can get past the cliff-hangers. It's really interesting for me to look back and realize just how different everything was a mere 50 years ago. Adie and her family are haunted by so many skeletons in the closet that you wonder how they ever coped with them back then. This book is riddled with interweaving scandal.
Though I had a few problems with this book, I'd still suggest it. It's slow in parts, but easily makes up for it with the heartfelt content. Though I hated waiting so long to discover what was at the end of those tantalizing tidbits, every single time I found the answer I found my jaw dropping in awe. They still weren't worth such a long wait, but it did soften the edge quite a bit by being such juicy, gossipy endings. Though I hated the neat little packaged bow at the end, most readers will love the outcome of it. I spent most of my time reading this book wondering why Tempe's journal was even there. It really didn't go along with anything Adie was doing at the time and it's only purpose seemed to be that she was deriving comfort from it. Thankfully, there was more to it and once I discovered it, the entire book took on a different personality. Throughout most of the book, I couldn't wait to put it down. Once I reached the end, however, I found myself deep in thought and examing everything I'd read in a new light.
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