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Even As We Breathe

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,252 ratings  ·  218 reviews
Even As We Breathe introduces the reader to twenty-year-old Cowney Sequoyah and the mountains of western North Carolina during the summer of 1942. Cowney is spending the season as an undervalued member of the Grove Park Inn’s grounds crew. The inn is currently home to Axis diplomats and their families being held as prisoners of war. Cowney struggles to balance the often co ...more
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published September 8th 2020 by University Press of Kentucky
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Average rating 3.79  · 
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 ·  1,252 ratings  ·  218 reviews


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Kasa Cotugno
I became aware of Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle's debut through a zoom interview with Louise Erdrich in which she said she was a Native American writer to watch. What makes this story stand out is its location -- Cherokee, a town in western North Carolina where a tribe exists even today. It is 1942, and Cowney Sequoyah has lived all his 19 years in these mountains. When he lands a job at a luxury resort two hours away in Asheville, circumstances awaken him to the bigger world. I did not know until ...more
Toni
Jan 22, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2021-read, fiction
This book is another case of wanting to like the book more than I actually did in the end. There were some beautifully rendered moments in this book, and the last pages are especially heartfelt and affecting. However, as whole, the story just felt a bit flat, never quite bringing me into its grasp.

Cowney Sequoyah, the central character, leaves his home on the Cherokee Reservation in North Carolina to take a job at a nearby inn where diplomats and their families are being held for a time during
...more
Cinda
Jun 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Set in Cherokee, NC and Asheville NC during World War II. Provides a rare glimpse into this history through the eyes of a young Cherokee man hired to work at the Grove Park Inn when it was used to house foreign nationals from allies of Germany and Japan.
Jaclyn
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What are you reading for #IndigenousPeoplesDay? I finished EVEN AS WE BREATHE by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle last night and was blown away by this debut novel (the first and only published novel by an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians).

The story is set in North Carolina during World War Two, and we follow the story of Cowney Sequoyah over a summer. Cowney is 19 and leaves his hometown of Cherokee to work in Asheville at an inn that has been converted into a military prison
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Cowney Sequoyah lives in Cherokee during the second World War, and since he has a bad foot is unable to fight. He finds work at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC, which has been pulled into house foreign diplomats who are really more prisoners of war, from Japan and Germany. He drives with a woman named Essie, who also shares in his Cherokee background. He works around the property and she works as a maid.

The author, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indi
...more
Carly
Jan 01, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
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Kathy Randall
Umm.

First this is #ownvoices set in Cherokee, NC and there are places where the writing sings. There are beautiful moments, poetic reflections, and clear writing throughout.

However. I’m going to need to sit on this one... I’m not sure if it was satisfying...

Much of the action takes place very late in the book, and there are often elements that feel like they should be metaphors: wildfire, weeks of rain, death, bears, waterfalls...

And Cowley continually feels like all the action is happening to
...more
Molly
Feb 27, 2021 rated it it was ok
Lots of historical anachronisms (the story takes place in 1942) . Unconvincing character voices, and no clear conflict. Very little sense of place, which was surprising and disappointing. I had such high hopes for this book: I was looking forward to the setting in place and time, the cultural background of the characters and the author. But first and last rule of writing: give the reader a reason to turn the page.
Monica
Sep 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This totally lived up to the hype—especially the ending. What a moving ending!
Dawn Duncan
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When I am looking for a good novel to read, I want to care about the characters, discover something I did not know prior, enjoy the plot, and delight in the careful word construction. In her debut novel, Even As We Breathe, Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle hit every mark of a good novel for me. I especially appreciated such a compelling read as we were into our 6th month of isolation and I was recovering from major surgery. I wanted to read on, which helped me escape for a bit and imagine myself in a ...more
Paula
May 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
"I am bits and pieces of the people I meet, my teacher once told me, though, more accurately, I am of the people and places and creatures." p.3
"No one would miss me if I didn't show up to work. For once in their lives, those Japanese Americans must have wished they were just Japanese in America, like the diplomats and nationals that I'd be serving at the inn. Being American had somehow made being Japanese harder. Citizenship by choice complicated an identity assumed at birth." p24

I probably woul
...more
Tuck
debut novel set in Asheville and Cherokee nc. 1942 and Grove Inn turned into an "internment" for axis diplomats and such. a Cherokee young man gets a job there for summer, death and mayhem ensue. ah but not really much death or mayhem. pretty tame and kind of uneven novel, ranging back and forth from lyrical, sort of spiritual, soap opera ish, and hill Billy ish. but important book for author. ...more
Kristin Stitt
Nov 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"I was too mad to cry, so the tears pooled inside me until I almost drowned from the inside out." (203)

Clapsaddle writes of grief, love, family, and identity in a way that illuminates the spiritual nature of the human experience. I highly recommend this book and only wish that it was longer, with more of the historical context fleshed out. I will be watching this author for her next novel!
...more
David Dowdy
I hesitated to buy Even As We Breathe when the owner of Adventure Bound Books in Morganton recommended it as historical fiction. What could an Indian story teach me about WWII? I'm glad I picked it up.

As HF, it brushes World War II in a personal and less war-accounting way that I found refreshing. As Native American fiction, it was eye-opening the way the author gently and realistically portrayed the Cherokee protagonist. I really felt Cowney and his family to be fully developed, sympathetic, a
...more
Pat
Apr 11, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: dle
This well-told story centers around Cowney Sequoyah, whose home is in the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. It takes place during the beginning of WWII. Cowney is unable to enlist due to a club foot, but has a job doing outdoor maintenance at The Grove Park Inn when foreign diplomats were housed during there during the war. I have been to the Grove Park Inn several times, and knew that Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald had stayed there during the 1920s; however, I was unaware of the history surrounding ...more
Lori
Oct 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
A stunning debut novel by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, Even As We Breathe offers a unique perspective on growing up as a disabled and orphaned Cherokee teenager during WWII.

In an attempt to escape the monotony of life on the reservation and save up a little money for college tuition, Cowney Sequoyah takes up a job as a maintenance worker for an inn that's been converted into a prisoner of war camp. His plans to keep his head down and avert unwanted attention goes ary when he and fellow Cherokee
...more
Amanda
Jun 12, 2021 rated it it was ok
Aiee. I really wanted to like this book. I wanted to learn more about the Cherokee during WW2, wanted to learn more about the odd internment camp in tony North Carolina, and wanted to read more about dealing with race and indigenous cultures at that time. And I love a good coming-of-age story. I got some of that and there were good parts-- Cowney and Essie seem real some of the time, I loved their secret retreat despite its unrealistic nature, and the specifics about Cowney's life in Cherokee we ...more
Tutankhamun18
Nov 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Felt a little flat as a story, had a good plot and good characters but they all felt a little lacking - a little underdeveloped. I think the book needed to be a little longer and to describe the characters and their everyday motivations and goings on a little more in order for the potential of this story to be fully realised.
Beth
Nov 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Ugh good but a bit repetitive like I get it ok maybe 3.5
Sandra McCarver
I expected to have a more intense story about racial discrimination. It also disappointed in regard to descriptions of the setting, the Grove Park Inn and Cherokee.
Kate
Oct 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a novel set in 1940's Asheville NC and Cherokee. We are following a young Cherokee man as he moves to an inn in Asheville to work for the summer so he can save up for college tuition. Essie, a Cherokee woman, rides with him because she also found a summer job at the inn. They grow a very close friendship throughout the novel. As the summer goes on, a bone is found, a little girl goes missing, and lies are being thrown around every which way. This novel focuses a lot on themes of race, cl ...more
Terry
Nov 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
While it is important that this novel delves into the Cherokee and their relationship with the land, there are many universal themes explored. Cowney’s complex relationships with his family mirror much of the human condition - the grasping for stability that absent parents bring and the uneasiness of facing the truth about family. His relationship with the young Cherokee woman Essie is similarly complicated, seemingly one-sided but perhaps not and shaken by betrayal or perhaps not.
Leslie
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
There are many things to like about this book, including the unusual setting, which is mid-WWII at a resort hotel in the Great Smoky Mountains housing foreign diplomatic families held by the Army, the point-of-view of a young Cherokee man who is ineligible for military service and who is working at the hotel, and the portrayal of his home life with his paternal grandmother and other residents of his small mountain town. The "mystery" in the book didn't quite gel for me, and one of the principle ...more
Mary Hinkle
Mar 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is the first novel published by an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians. Thus it offers an unique perspective on place (the community of Cherokee, NC and the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC) and on the coming of age of a young Cherokee boy growing up in the closing days of World War II.
Julia Ellis
Jun 09, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written book set in a part of the world I love. I had never read a story about WNC from the Cherokee/Native perspective. The story lost me a few times but the symbolism was powerful and the characters were well formed.
Lana Hasper
A somewhat uneven read for me. The dialogue between Cowney and Essie comes off as juvenile and the plot seems contrived but the passages where Cowney reflects back on his life and loved ones are quite lovely.

The Grove Park Inn was used as an internment center for Axis diplomats during WWII and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Anne
Oct 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book spurred my interest because I am a North Carolinian and know the area where it took place. It is an interesting insight into the lives of the Cherokee in the early 40s. I wish I had liked the character, Essie, better because I couldn't understand Cowney's attraction to her. But her part in his life rang true. ...more
Patrick Laney
Nov 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
A beautifully told story which delivers simple and elegant wisdom in certain moments. The plot remains curious throughout. Most crucially, this book is serious in nature yet made me feel like a boy again on the cusp of discovering a newness of the world.
Angela Shores
Sep 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing. A necessary read; it will move you.

A story of discovering one’s self, navigating through culture and historical context and hopes.
Laura Stamp
May 29, 2021 rated it liked it
Sometimes you just want to read a book about a kind young man trying to do the right thing because you forget that kind young men exist. Cowney is an orphaned Indian who lives in the mountains outside of Asheville, NC with his grandma and uncle. He gets a job at the Grove Park Inn during WWII, which is being used as a sort of military holding space for foreign “diplomats,” mostly enemy prisoners of high rank. He goes there with a young woman from his community and the book is the story of what h ...more
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