A debut historical novel weaves a tale of youth, conflict, loss, and choice through one of America’s greatest mysteries.
Allie O’Shay has, in some ways, left her past behind, departing her family’s cattle ranch to pursue a doctorate in psychology. But the past is no simple thing, and Allie begins having strange, impossibly vivid dreams that seem to be genuine history, not fantasy. The dreams center on the Roanoke Colony, filling in the gaps of just how the settlement vanished. In particular, Allie feels drawn to a young colonist named Emily Colman, who’s particularly embroiled in the turmoil of Roanoke. Emily’s story offers a portrait of the colony: the escalating tensions and disastrous errors in dealing with the local Native American tribes, and the elation and grief as both new life and swift death come to Roanoke. Finally, there are Emily’s own timeless tribulations, as she contends with the romantic attentions of multiple men and faces a decision that could take her life places she never thought possible. Allie struggles to make sense of the dreams, and turns to everything from family history to cutting-edge dream theory to drugs in order to delve deeper. What’s more, as conditions in Emily’s timeline deteriorate, Allie learns she may be approaching an end to the dreams, leading to a terrifying conclusion that has wreaked havoc on the minds of women throughout her family line. Rhynard’s two compelling tales manage to combine powerful emotionality with thorough research, as both the investigations into dream theory in the present timeline and the colonial activities of the past are deftly detailed without overwhelming the characters or story. Similarly, while the narration centers on Emily and Allie, it also effectively incorporates the perspectives of all the other significant characters without becoming confusing. It’s possible that a chapter with more descriptions of Allie’s life immediately before the dreams began would have allowed readers to connect with her more in the novel’s early parts. But the suspense of the Roanoke story provides plenty of incentive to keep reading until Allie’s sections develop more weight.
This dynamic, genre-bending tale involving dreams and the Roanoke Colony delivers new discoveries and venerable truths.