heidi's Reviews > Redwood and Wildfire

Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston
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Apr 11, 2012

it was ok
bookshelves: wiscon, reviewed
Read from March 11 to April 02, 2012

I keep trying to type up this review and then stalling in the middle and rebooting my browser and losing it. I think it is a sign that I should not try to say so much about the book.

This is a sprawling novel following two characters from rural Georgia, across time and distance to their reunion in bustling Chicago of the 'teens. Redwood/Sequoia is a singer, a dreamer, a magic-worker. Adrian Wildfire is a man haunted by bad memories and demon rum. The most important thing is that he truly believes in Redwood, which allows her to work stronger magic, and she believes in him, which enables him to eventually abandon his self-pity.

The texture of this book is amazing. I felt like I could feel the petals of the swamp iris, the dust, the noise of Chicago, the feel of silk clothing. The characters are interesting and distinct, but I felt less connected to them as they got older, like they were less carefully delineated. Overall, I really enjoyed the language, although I was skeptical about the way certain words were called out as being magical, including "believe" and "blues". I felt like it was an over-signal.

The story was meandering, not so much a heroic journey as two people re-enacting the Odyssey from both sides, both the wandering and the waiting.

Read if: You are committed to reading the Tiptree winner each year, you like artistic novels, you understand that any novel representing the period will include racial aggression and sexual violence.

Skip if: You are looking for a book with a more classical narrative arc, you want a conclusive ending.
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Reading Progress

03/11/2012 page 15
3.0% "I'm liking the character introduction so far. Hard to put it down and go back to work."
03/13/2012 page 40
9.0% "The plot is starting to thicken up nicely. I am sometimes a bit frustrated with Redwood's naivete."
03/14/2012 page 224
50.0% "We've gotten everyone to Chicago and we are exactly halfway through the book."
03/20/2012 page 260
58.0% "Ok, everyone is in Chicago and we still haven't met up, although Saeed's family should prove an interesting complication."
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