An immersive dive into an underrepresented moment in American history.

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SEEDS OF DECEPTION

A freed slave fights to get her family admitted into the Cherokee Nation in Walker’s debut historical novel.

In 1886 in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), Sput Louie McClendon and her husband, Benjamin, are former slaves attempting to scratch out a living on the unforgiving prairie of Feather Falls Township. Benjamin is part Cherokee, and Sput hopes that this will lead to them receiving Cherokee membership and a land allotment. That dream is shattered when they instead receive an unexpected visit from Goliah T. Lynch, also known as “Old Crow,” the half-white, half-Cherokee local landowner whose possessions, prior to Emancipation, included Sput and her husband. Goliah aims to evict the McClendons from the land, a task in which he takes personal pleasure, despite the fact that Benjamin is his biological son. That evening, Benjamin goes out to confront Goliah and doesn’t return. Fearing that Goliah has killed him, Sput seeks help from her enemy’s rival, the Cherokee clan elder Two Bird. Now the head of the household, Sput must find a way to get herself enrolled as a Cherokee or condemn her family to poverty—and perhaps death. Walker’s grit-inflected prose perfectly captures the hardscrabble environment of Sput and her neighbors: “Goliah chuffed, as his eyes swept across not only their slapdash shack of a home that leaned to one side but all of their various sheds and shanties surrounding it that had been built with every throwaway piece of mismatched, misshapen lumber and boards they could gather.” The characters, all of whom have complex relationships to Cherokee identity, are well drawn and uniformly engaging; the concept of belonging is also a recurring theme. The pacing drags, at times, but the author still manages to turn Sput’s story into a stirring saga with a genuinely affecting conclusion. Readers with a keen interest in American history will particularly enjoy this tale set in an relatively obscure corner of the country’s past—one that complicates American perceptions of race while exploring universal notions of family and hardship.

An immersive dive into an underrepresented moment in American history.

Pub Date: June 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-578-49283-4

Page Count: 226

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 29, 2019

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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