I probably would have given this novel a 2.5/5 if possible. I find myself becoming pickier and pickier about the historic fiction I really enjoy and I...moreI probably would have given this novel a 2.5/5 if possible. I find myself becoming pickier and pickier about the historic fiction I really enjoy and I was expecting this one to make the list. The Civil War!, midwives!, and it was featured on the Amelia Bloomer list 2010-seemed right up my alley. For the most part, I did enjoy this first novel but I also found some parts to be quite problematic. My biggest quibble is Oliveira’s inclusion of real historic characters. I didn’t mind that honest Abe and Dorothea Dix make guest appearances but I found the chapters that featured them instead of Oliveria’s richly imagined characters distracting from the story and made the book somewhat disjointed. I also think Oliveria goes out of her way to include dialogue that testifies to the chronology of specific Civil War battles, etc. I prefer the historic fiction I read to include more detail about daily life in the time, than the military ins and outs that I skim through. Finally, I found the extremely variable chapter length to be distracting at times.
Despite all my complaints, she did write a well researched book about one woman’s ambition to rise above the constraints placed upon her by her era. I enjoyed the idea that Mary Sutter was able to grow personally in her ambitions amidst great national and personal tragedy. I would recommend this book to people who already enjoy historic fiction, but would not use it as a stand out of the genre to entice someone in. I would be interested to read Oliveira’s future works because I think she is still finding her feet as an author and has great potential. (less)
I’m going to preface this review with a bit of a complaint. When I signed up to win this book from the First Reads program, there was zero indication...moreI’m going to preface this review with a bit of a complaint. When I signed up to win this book from the First Reads program, there was zero indication in the description or author’s blurb that this book is a contemporary Christian novel. I have no objection to Christian presses or authors writing Christian novels but I am a secular gal and I feel a bit annoyed that this book was not accurately described. I often see novels that either make it implicitly or explicitly clear in their descriptions that they are intended for a religious audience in the First Reads list. I don’t enter to win those books because by and large, I am not interested in reading those books. When a book like this is presented with no indication of its religious underpinnings, I have to assume the not mentioning it is an attempt to trick the unknowing into reading these books. I think I speak for at least 99% of the population that reading a novel with mildly religious undertones isn’t going to get people into churches. So if this really is the case to get a secular population to read religious novels, I don’t appreciate it. Not to mention handing out a religious novel to people who don’t follow that religion probably isn’t going to garner a lot of glowing reviews.
To get onto the actual review now. This novel looks like a historical fiction novel based on its cover and cover blurb, but almost all of it is set in present day Fredericksburg where the past’s echoes reverberate loudly for the Holly Oak family. (Historic fiction fans, rest easy as there is a hunk of this novel set during the Civil War and written in epistolary form between Adelaide’s great grandmother living in Fredricksburg and her cousin living in Maine.) The Civil War continues to play a large role in family matriarch Adelaide’s life; she lives in her ancestral antebellum house complete with an embedded cannon ball from the Battle of Fredericksburg and she makes Confederate uniforms for Civil War reenactors. There are many rumors swirling about the ghosts of Holly Oak and although Adelaide is quick to dismiss such rumors, she has her own opinion about the house’s women’s notorious bad luck, including her granddaughter’s death at a young age. As Adelaide settles more into her old age (she’s 90-something) changes happen with her extended family that prove no one’s life is static, even in the twilight years.
In all, I thought this was a rather typical historic fiction novel and the story was compelling and fun to read. For years, I have loved reading about the Civil War and appreciate how A Sound Among the Trees depicted both the torn loyalties of many Americans as well as the Civil War’s presence in modern life. But as an agnostic (or something like that), I was not thrilled by the book’s wrap up. I’m trying to avoid spoilers here but let’s just say I find it highly unlikely that faith alone can solve 60 plus years of mental health and addiction issues as it seemingly did for one of the supporting characters. However, I can see Christian fans of historic fiction and light novels digging A Sound Among the Trees. (less)