Civil War battles have already scarred deeply divided Missouri but barely touched the Ozarks when Catrina falls in love with a naked stranger making crop circles on her family’s farm.
Despite his amnesia (Cat names him Stonefield), it’s instant love for him, too. He’s dark—part African-American or Creek, perhaps—and speaks in quotations from Shakespeare and Walt Whitman. They act out their love within the natural world they revere until his returning memories of loss and ill-treatment come between them. Opposing forces accumulate. Cat’s depression over her mother’s accidental death deepens as Stonefield abandons her, joining forces with a savage white man. Enlisting in the Union Army, Cat’s brother—who suspects Stonefield of Confederate sympathies—pushes her to marry the new preacher. Cat’s passion for nature and her tempestuous emotions are compellingly portrayed, but style can’t compensate for what’s missing: characters worth caring about and a plot that makes sense. Here’s where the intended Wuthering Heights high concept fails. Cathy and Heathcliff were raised on the Yorkshire moors, their love deep-rooted, witnessed and recounted by others, unlike Catrina and Stonefield. Like all narrators, Cat directs readers to what she cares about. Complex Muscogee Creek history, slavery, life in war-torn Missouri, her father’s health, and her brother’s safety are so much narrative scenery. Only Stonefield matters to her, and even then she seems to care less about who he is than how he makes her feel.
Melodrama for the selfie generation. (Historical fiction. 14-18)