One Post – Two book reviews

I’ve read a couple books recently that I liked, but didn’t love. I considered not posting these reviews at all, but in the interest of comparison, I decided it’s not right to only post raves. After all, there are thousands of really good books I don’t love. I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading these two titles. I just couldn’t give them more than 3 out of 5 stars.

I should have loved this novel. It has most of the ingredients I seek.

1)      Historical Fiction. The story takes place just before and after the Civil War so we’re treated to a glimpse of the unrest prior to Emancipation and to the hardship following the war.

2)      Young girl’s perspective. We meet Granada when she is just 11. Spoiled (for a slave that is) and petulant, we watch her mature and gain a true understanding of her roots and her identity.

3)      Strong female characters. This book is populated with wise black women, most notably Polly Shine, and I love that. In the spirit of Toni Morrison, these women can “see through” others and death does not stop communication between generations.

4)      Beautiful, evocative language. Odell has a lovely way with words.

Granada felt many things she had no words to shape, so she remained quiet and let the secret part of her flicker as long as possible until at last it faded to its hiding place.”

But something about this book did not click for me. Part of the issue was that I never came to love Granada. I could not figure out if the story belonged to her or to Polly. I never came to know either deeply enough.

I did love reading Odell’s language, especially in terms of Granada’s struggle to listen, to seen, to understand.

Now that her mother was no longer, Granada was flooded with needs, never before spoken. She wanted her mother to explain to her this crumbling wall between dreaming and waking…How tenderness could hurt and how delight could be so terrifying.”

But even his lyrical language wasn’t enough to fully engage me. I never wanted to give up on the book, but I definitely wanted to love it more.

Book Cover from Goodreads

I waited a few days after finishing the book to write the review only to find I still didn’t have much to say.

When I looked back to see quotes that struck me, I found I hadn’t copied any. Strike One.

I know some details about the characters but I can’t remember their names after 3 days. Strike 2.

I did like the premise of a birth mother and “life” mother locked in a battle. Halverson puts forth quite a few situations that ask moral questions without simple answers. I always like those kinds of moral dilemmas.

Had the ending not wrapped up with such frustrating tidiness, I may have stayed more involved and interested, but 2/3 of the way through I just knew there would be a dramatic catharsis and a “happily ever after” feel despite the book’s title. Strike 3.

Bottom line: I liked it enough to finish reading, but not enough to recommend it.

I'd love to hear what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s