Review: “Across a Broken Shore” by Amy Trueblood

40024145Title: Across a Broken Shore
Author: Amy Trueblood
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Publisher: Flux
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Books-a-Million | Amazon | Apple Books

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher through NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

 

Set in the latter years of the Great Depression in America, Amy Trueblood tells the story of a young woman divided between family and ambition in her latest YA historical.

The last thing eighteen-year-old Wilhelmina “Willa” MacCarthy wants is to be a nun. It’s 1936, and as the only daughter amongst four sons, her Irish-Catholic family is counting on her to take her vows – but Willa’s found another calling. Each day she sneaks away to help Doctor Katherine Winston in her medical clinic in San Francisco’s Richmond District.

Keeping secrets from her family only becomes more complicated when Willa agrees to help the doctor at a field hospital near the new bridge being built over the Golden Gate. Willa thinks she can handle her new chaotic life, but as she draws closer to a dashing young ironworker and risks grow at the bridge, she discovers that hiding from what she truly wants may be her biggest lie of all.

It’s been a handful of months since the last time I read a historical having favored SFF heavily for most of this year. It was a good run but, admittedly, I missed the cozy comfort that a good historical brings and, reader, I couldn’t be gladder to dip back into this genre with this book.

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With the construction of San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge in its background, Across a Broken Shore will transport readers to late 1830s America – a time of great hardship for many, but also of hope. It was an enjoyable read, both touching and relatable in equal measures.

The story centers on eighteen-year-old Willa MacCarthy. Having finished high school, Willa’s all but bidding time, albeit with increasing dread, until she enters the convent. It was a fate her traditional Irish-Catholic parents had set for her ever since she was young and, burdened both by guilt and duty, Willa had consigned herself to it that was until she met Dr. Winston. 

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Across a Broken Shore dealt with some complicated and tough topics: the often-limiting and disembodying weight of familial duty and expectations, the stifling rules of tradition and convention, the challenges and prejudices women had to weather and pretend to be immune from in a world built for men. I loved that Trueblood incorporated all these issues within her narrative. It made the story believable and relatable because even if this novel was set some 80+ years ago these are issues are still pretty much a problem for so many other people. 

Still, crucial though they may be, the heart of this novel is still Willa.

Willa, as a character, was relatable and readers will find themselves empathizing with her. She’s strong in her own way, smart, resourceful and capable. I couldn’t help feeling angry on her behalf for the way her whole family, with the exception of Paddy, treats her. They limited her, forcing her to conform to be this person they think she should be. 

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Dr. Katherine Winston was another character I loved. She was a mentor and a friend to Willa, encouraging her to follow her heart’s desire and, in the end, giving her the means to do so. She along with Willa’s brother Paddy, Cara, Willa’s best friend, and Sam, her love interest, were bright lights in Willa’s life. They advocated for her and pushed her to assert her agency amidst the one-tracked fate her parents laid out for her.

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Though perhaps the last 50 or so pages were a bit circular before finally coming to a final resolution, Across a Broken Shore was a solid coming-of-age novel. Readers will be inspired by Willa’s determination and will identify with her struggles. This is my first book from Amy Trueblood but it certainly will not be the last. I highly recommend this read, especially for those who love historical fiction.

about the author

amy-t.-bio-photoAMY TRUEBLOOD grew up in California only ten minutes from Disneyland which sparked an early interest in storytelling, As the youngest of five, she spent most of her time trying to find a quiet place to curl up with her favorite books. After graduating from the University of Arizona with a degree in journalism, she worked in entertainment in Los Angeles before returning to work in Arizona.

Fueled by good coffee and an awesome Spotify playlist, you can often find Amy blogging and writing. Nothing But Sky, a 2018 Junior Library Guild selection, is her first novel.

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Review: “In the Neighborhood of True” by Susan Kaplan Carlton

In the Neighborhood of TrueTitle: In the Neighborhood of True
Author: Susan Kaplan Carlton
Publisher: Algoquin Young Readers
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Get it: IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Kobo | iBooks

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863498-the-gilded-wolves

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest opinion. Thank you goes out to Algonquin Young Readers for inviting me to be part of the In the Neighborhood of True blog tour.

 

Thought-provoking and relevant, Susan Kaplan Carlton tells the story of one girl caught between two worlds in her newest release In the Neighborhood of True.

After her father’s death, Ruth Robb and her family transplant themselves in the summer of 1958 from New York to Atlanta – the land of debutantes, sweet tea, and the Ku Klux Klan. In her new hometown, Ruth quickly figures out she can be Jewish or she can be popular, but she can’t be both. Eager to fit in with the blond girls in the “pastel posse,” Ruth decides to hide her religion. Before she knows it, she is falling for the handsome and charming Davis and sipping Cokes with him and his friends at the all-white, all-Christian Club.

Does it matter that Ruth’s mother makes her attend services at the local synagogue every week? Not as long as nobody outside her family knows the truth. At temple, Ruth meets Max , who is serious and intense about the fight for socia justice, and now he is caught in between two worlds, two religions, and two boys. But when a violent hate crime brings the different parts of Ruth’s life into sharp conflict, she will have to choose between all she’s come to love about her new life and standing up for what she believes.

61 years – that is the amount of time in between 2019 and 1958. But even with six decades separating then and now the events of 1958 still resonate, ripple down our today.

I don’t know what that says about us as human beings, about our ineptitude and willful ignorance, repeating all our past mistakes over and over again.

Loosely inspired by the October 1958 bombing of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, Atlanta’s oldest synagogue, Susan Kaplan Carlton tackles racism, discrimination and identity in In the Neighborhood of True.

The story follows 16-year old Ruth Robb, who moves to Atlanta from New York after her father’s untimely death. Ruth quickly acculturates to her new home, embracing tea and etiquette lessons, pre-debutante balls and accepting inclusion into the “pastel posse” – a group of popular girls all from well-pedigreed, all-white, all-Christian families. Knowing that she wouldn’t be welcomed otherwise, Ruth hides her religion, her Sundays at the temple with her mother and younger sister in exchange for her new life, and for a while this works for her. But a violent hate crime smash together the two halves of her life and forces Ruth to choose between what she wants and what she believes is right.

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In the Neighborhood of True was such as simple story of a young girl coming of age in a period of great change. This simplicity and uncomplicatedness, however, only made this book standout, giving me a snapshot of history and highlighting the message it wants to impart. Racism and discrimination are still topics very relevant to our lives in this day and age. These are topics, hurtful as they may, that we need to talk about.

Ruth, the focus of much of this story, was a well-developed character. Being once a teen myself, I understood her position and why she chose to hide part of herself to fit in with her new friends. She was a young girl still dealing with the pain and grief of losing her beloved father. I think she found comfort (and maybe some distraction) in being part of something that was so different from her old life in New York – a life where she had a living father and a complete family. Atlanta and its pre-debutante/debutante balls must have felt like a fresh start for her. In Ruth I saw bits of my younger sisters, and I felt for her, wanted her to be happy even as I cringe and roll me eyes at all the frippery she seem to genuinely love.

Ruth was believable – like a real-life teenage girl with flaws, someone who still have a lot of learning and growing up to do, and she lends the story a great amount of realism. The thing I appreciated the most, though, in the way Susan Kaplan Carlton wrote her was how she didn’t make out Ruth as a white savior. Instead, she had her called out several times like in that part when she told the pastel posse about Birdie’s, her grandparents’ black maid, daughters being in college the housekeeper took her aside and told her to not use her children to impress her friends.

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Susan Kaplan Carlton’s writing was, like the story she wanted to tell, simple, straightforward and on point. No fripperies for her at all, as opposed to her main character, and it made her story flow easily.

Still, there were a couple things that could have been done better. The secondary characters come to mind immediately. With the exception of Alice, Ruth’s mother, and Nattie, her younger sister, Carlton’s supporting cast felt one dimensional. They were there to play parts in relation to Ruth. I couldn’t imagine what their lives are, what they do when they are not with Ruth – and these are all signs that they aren’t as fleshed out as they could have been.

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The blurb was also a bit misleading. Going in, I anticipated some sort of love triangle between Davis, Max and Ruth. Sure, there was a Davis and Ruth pairing and something with Max was alluded to, but other than that? Nil.

Overall, In the Neighborhood of True was a thoughtful read. I enjoyed it a whole lot, its flaws aside, and honestly feel like this should be a book that should be read by everyone. YA historical fiction fans, as well as YA contemporary lovers certainly will find something for themselves in this book.

Check out the link below to read the first chapter of In the Neighborhood of True.

In the Neighborhood of True – Chapter 1 | Susan Kaplan Carlton

Author Q&A (2)

Susan Carlton Credit Sharona Jacobs_HR

SUSAN KAPLAN CARLTON currently teaches writing at Boston University. She is the author of the YA novels Love & Haight and Lobsterland Her writing has also appeared in Self, Elle, Mademoiselle, and Seventeen. She lived for a time with her family in Atlanta, where her daughters learned the finer point of etiquette from a little pink book and the power of social justice from their synagogue.

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