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A small Irish girl is orphaned on the crossing to America. Her brother sold as an indentured servant, she is taken by the ship’s owner to his plantation to work of her parent’s debt. There she settles in with the slaves and find a family like no other. As Lavinia grows up, her innocence is challenged as the reality of society’s rules begin to pull her from those she loves. Along with her is Belle, a slave, who has many secrets and is in the cross-hairs of those who resent her position on the plantation.
Let me start this review a little differently than I normally do. I want to refer to the one-star reviews I found for this book. Over and over, people mentioned that this was too much like a soap opera, that the story did not refer to society outside of the plantation or the Williamsburg house, it is too depressing, and that it was too unrealistic. The complaint that it is a soap opera = This is a highly dramatized story. There is death, birth, adultery, incest, murder, and drug use. Not only is it a soap opera, it reflects the story of many families. So I think calling it a soap opera is too much. As to it not referring to events outside the two main locations, this story is told through the eyes of the indentured young girl and one of the slaves that grows close to her. They are telling only what they know which is limited to the immediate world around them. What is happening outside their world is not known to them. Depressing? Yes, there are a lot of bad things that happen, but there are a number of sweet moments that made me smile and scenes where the characters danced and laughed. Also, this is about slavery and the ugly side of it. If the author had shown any more joy in the slave quarters, the critics would have complained about that. And about it being unrealistic? How do we really know? It is a fiction story about two women from different worlds who find a common love. I strongly suggest you ignore the bad reviews and give this book a try. Now on to my actual review.
I loved the fact that this book was written from the viewpoint of the two women. One white, one black. Both pulled into the family from different directions and faced many of the same horrors. I don’t think the viewpoint of anyone else would have made it any better. I think it would have complicated the story too much.
One reviewer pointed out that the story was too flat with all white people bad and all slaves good. There were a number of good white people but most of them had limited power. They tried the best they could. I did notice there were very few slaves who were not painted in a good light. Mostly I think that was because the reader was exposed to a limited number of slaves and those were the ones Lavinia and Belle were the closest to. They were good though not without their faults. They were nowhere near perfect.
It is an emotional story with many ups and downs as Lavinia and Belle face the challenges that come to them. There is a horror in their lives that will shape their futures and try to destroy them both. They make bad decisions, they trust the wrong people, and they make selfish moves. Human characters.
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