Red River by Lalita Tademy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I really enjoy historical fiction, and this book was no different. It is a sometimes-inseparable mix of factual history and embellishment and injection of the author's family stories passed down from generation to generation. What is most commonly known as the "Colfax riots" during the Restoration period in the South in the late 1800s was really a massacre of hundreds of black men and several white sympathizers, men who believed that each man should have the right to vote and own property. The White League in the book gives rise to the KKK, and while I don't know if this is factual or fictional, I assume the former, but cannot state it as fact without doing some research.
While it took me a while to get into the book, I definitely enjoyed it and hope to read Lalita Tademy's first novel, Cane River, which was on the New York Times Bestseller list and has been an Oprah Book Club selection (though I put hardly any stock in the second acclimation, truth be told). The authentic voice and dialogue help bring the characters to life, never seeming contrived. The love and respect Tademy has for her ancestors is evident, but at no time did the characters feel as though they'd been overly hyped. Images of actual historical documents and photos are interspersed among the pages of the novel, and it's easy to get lost in the expressions of the pictures and relate them to the descriptions of character, easy to see the years of hard work and tribulation reflected in the faces of these stoic men and women.
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My friend Grace over at Feeding My Book Addiction set up a readalong for Stephen King's latest novel, 11/22/63. I am incredibly grateful for Grace's influence when it comes to books, much more than she suspects, I'm sure, but that's a post for another day. This first post contains my ramblings and reactions to the first three of six parts to the novel. Head here for a plot synopsis if you haven't read or are not currently reading. My apologies if this post is rambling or disjointed- I've got an early flight in the morning and wanted to get this written before. So it will also be short.
First off, I want to say that I've never been a personal fan of Stephen King's works. I've read the majority of them, and I've said in the past that I respect the quality and exquisite craftsmanship of his novels and the reach of his influence. He is truly talented, but I never really truly felt like I connected with any of his pieces. I'm reminded that this man is not just a popular writer by any means (and experienced a feeling I can describe only as giddy) upon discovering his correct usage of "effect" as a verb and a casually thrown in "simulacrum".
There are several things that I kept mulling over or questioning as I read through the first three parts. I'm very sure that King doesn't idly throw in Al's cautionary words to Jake regarding anachronisms like cell phones and recently minted coins. I'm really hoping this is merely foreshadowing a clash later in the book where a "future" possession falls into the wrong hands, like someone obtaining Epping's list of game scores. We'll see how that turns out. Oddly enough, right after I finished that section of the novel, I attempted to buy a soda from the vending machine and got frustrated because it kept spitting my dime out. Upon closer inspection, it was a 1964 silver dime, and led to an afternoon lost in a daydream about a time-traveler to the future (our present) wondering why his old money doesn't work anywhere. I was mildly amused by this coincidence.
I'm also very intrigued by the Card Man, and hope that the colors of his cards bear some real significance by the end of the book. The change in color to black when Epping discovers him dying made me wonder if there was some proportional relationship to the level of difficulty Epping will face during that trip back in time, like his very own threat level meter. Thoughts? What do you envision the significance of the card colors to be?
So far, the character I'm most taken with, understandably, is Miz Mimi. Her sass, brass, and class evoke a multitude of feelings: jealousy, envy, adoration, and the obvious intense sadness. The attitude with which she handles her prognosis and faces the end of her life with determination and an almost blasé mindset makes her instantly likeable. The humor-infused barbs she trades with Jake and her keen scrutiny and analysis of his character make me want to be a little bit tougher myself.