Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Do not start reading this book unless you can stay up all night to finish it! Once you begin, everything else will be put on hold. I originally asked for a review copy because I am a fan of Vicki Delany, and I thought this was going to be another of her Constable Molly Smith novels. So I was only momentarily disappointed to find it was a stand alone. And believe me, the disappointment quickly turned to fascination, involvement, immersion, and absolute awe. It is always uplifting to see authors who are able to branch out from established series to try new characters, settings, and plots. Delany doesn't disappoint.
Ostensibly a murder mystery, this book is so much more. It is a multi-layered, multi-genre, multi-facted story that appears to set up quickly, but then slowly and inexorably pulls the reader into the deeper layers of the story. It is the story of 3, no - 4, no! - 5 women: Hannah Manning- a Candadian journalist who has suffered Traumatic Brain injury from an IED explosion while covering the war in Afghanistan; Maggie MacGregor - widow of a Tory soldier who died in the American Revolutionary war and who, in the late 18th century, was one of the original inhabitants of the house where Hannah is staying; Hila, an Afghani woman living in the farmhouse down the road; Lily - Hannah's 12 year old niece; and Rebecca Mansour, Hannah's neurologist.
The hard-scrapple farm where Hannah is staying belongs to her sister and brother-in-law. It was his family's farm for generations. It's small, and the couple is determined to eke out a living by producing organic and locally grown food for the family and for local families, eateries and stores. Low wages, transient workers, and never-ending back-breaking work are the norms that form the framework for the story. There's a scruffy dog, an attic full of old family mementos, an obnoxious mother-in-law, some horses, and OH! Did I mention a murder? There are men of authority whose identity is predicated on controlling women throughout the stories of all the cultures and generations of these various women.
While we certainly want to find out all the details of the murder, the real story is the unfolding realization by all the women of how much control they do or do not have over their own destinies. All the competing stories could have resulted in a scrappy patchwork quilt of a story. Instead, Delaney deftly weaves all the threads together to form a beautiful tapestry of women's roles, women's plights, and women's strengths over several centuries, and in several different cultures. Yes, the murder is solved but that's all the spoiler you'll get from me. The real story is how each of these women's lives are impacted by violence, friendship, male dominance, enslavement, and love, generosity, hope and forgiveness.
This is way more than your basic mystery story.
Many thanks to Poisoned Pen Press for making the review copy available.
Author: Vicki Delany
Publisher-Format: Poisoned Pen Press, e-galley 312 pages
Date of publication: Sept 4, 2012
Subject: Traumatic Brain Injury, women's rights, cultural differences, murder
Setting: Prince Edward County Canada
Genre: fiction, mystery
Source: e book from publisher via Net Galley
Posted by Tina at 4:39 PM