3.75 of 5 stars
This debut literary piece by Tara Conklin leaves the reader mesmerized with sheer emotion. Readers follow a dual storyline of Josephine, a house slave, who is not only an artistic marvel but a soon-to-be runaway. We also follow, Carolina “Lina”, a young corporate lawyer tasked with building a reparations case involving Josephine, while also running from her own shadowed family history. I liked how the author made both women interwoven by motherhood. Josephine, a new mother is surprised to find she is a mother…while Lina gets surprised that she has a mother. Very good juxtaposition in a subtle manner. We journey with Josephine to recognize what it is like as a slave living in the house with white masters (I think this was very softly written in respects to what some house slaves were dealt). We’re with Josephine as she decides she will run (the reasoning for this seemed shallow based on what the field slaves endured and gave Josephine an almost “slave elitist” quality that didn’t sit well with me). We follow her along her journey during escape, all the way to making it to a free state. As for Lina, we journey through the legal case with her as she tries to fact-find for Josephine’s case. I felt this portion of the story slowed a bit because we knew what happened and were waiting for Lina to find it out. I did enjoy the small nuggets of unknown information that Lina was able to find a add to Josephine’s story. We also follow Lina as she shows the reader her relationship with her father, good but complicated and somewhat surface level. I did not get anything out of this relationship at all to be honest. I had more feelings towards Nora (an archivist) than I did Oscar (her father). I wish I could have felt more close to their relationship which would have made the big reveal more intimate and impactful. Also, there was a moment in the story that I did not like how the author was attempting to make it seem like black people got promotions or “freebies” based on their race, which made it seem like the book sort of glazed over the true heinous nature of slavery but was quite blatant in modern blacks getting “help” in their careers by being black. That made me pause a bit but I know it happens in real life, just didn’t think the overall story was served well with that imbalance. Lina in the end is on a quest to find out who she is based on her family, her desires and her interests. My favorite part in the entire novel were the letters. I loved how they took me back to the time and had different narrators. I couldn’t get enough. All in all, I think the story was very well written with really special desciptors of people and places. It’s superbly character driven so its rated just a squeak under 4 stars based on some of the points indicated prior. I’d definitely read another Conklin novel (especially if this is her debut…it only gets better from here!)! Her next novel, The Last Romantics, will be available Winter 2019.
Raging Book Reviews Recommended!
*Special thanks to William Morrow/Harper Collins for sending a copy for an honest review.