The blurb for this novel reads, “A Jewish immigrant, a Cherokee woman, and a black slave find love, friendship, and redemption in the midst of the tragedy of the Trail of Tears”. I thought it sounded interesting, and it might have been, but really, not so much. Just as a truly great writer can take the dullest of topics and make it shiny and fascinating, so may an interesting concept leave the reader squirming and thinking of other things she might want to do or read, if the narrative doesn’t flow well. And although I usually have tremendous sympathy for writers, since I write a little now and then, I just couldn’t find any redemptive quality in Glickman’s novel. It feels as if someone has gone to a lot trouble to research the topic, and the whole story is going to be strung together around that research, come what may. In other words, instead of assisting the writer with the story, the story appears to be there as a forum to present research. And so thank you, just the same Net Galley, and thank you also, Open Road Integrated Media, but I can’t recommend this book to anyone. And if I felt this way after slogging through a galley I received free of charge, how might I have felt if I had paid for it?
The story starts out with sex, which rather startled me, and it didn’t seem to fit the rest of the story in overall tone, but hey, they say sex sells, so maybe the editors wanted her to open the story with sex. Fine, fine. I got through the first chapter and set the book aside so I could start fresh once my irritation had ebbed.
But the start of the story is only the start of the book’s problems. The figurative language is often trite—“buxom beauties”, and a Cherokee whose face is—what else?—“chiseled”. Description should drive the story forward, but it doesn’t happen here. There are huge stretches of nothing but narrative, and then impossibly long monologues in other places. There is an occasional interesting description of setting, but it comes undone as soon as we go back, as we must, to characters and plot.
It’s kind of a mess.
I found myself wondering whether the author might not find greater success in writing narrative nonfiction, where she could focus on her information, but spin it out in the format of a story, but I just didn’t see anything here that showed promise.
Could be this will be the next National Book or Pulitzer winner and I will have been the one that said the book was hopeless; stranger things have happened. But I have to call them as I see them, and although no doubt a lot of worthwhile research has been conducted, the story itself fails to flow. It feels cobbled together, forced, and contrived. If I felt a little editing here and there would be useful, I’d say so, but it’s pretty much the same from start to merciful end.
Not this time.