Thursday, August 27, 2009

Review: Receive Me Falling

Summary: he haunting words of an historian and former cane worker on the Caribbean island of Nevis, launch Meghan Owen on her quest to unlock the secrets of an abandoned sugar plantation and its ghosts.

After Meg’s parents die in a car accident on the night of her engagement party, she calls off her wedding, takes leave of her job in Annapolis, and travels to land she’s inherited on Nevis. A series of discoveries in an old plantation house on the property, Eden, set her on a search for the truth surrounding the shameful past of her ancestors, their slaves, and the tragedy that resulted in the fall of the plantation and its inhabitants.

Through a crushing phone call with her lawyer, Meg learns that her father’s estate was built on stolen money, and is being sued by multiple sources. She is faced with having to sell the land and plantation home, and deal with the betrayal she feels from her deceased father.

In alternating chapters, the historical drama of the Dall family unfolds. Upon the arrival of British abolitionists to the hedonistic 19th century plantation society, Catherine Dall is forced to choose between her lifestyle and the scandal of deserting her family. An angry confrontation with Catherine’s slave, Leah, results in the girl’s death, but was it murder or suicide?

Hidden texts, scandalous diaries, antique paintings, and confessional letters help Meghan Owen uncover the secrets of Eden and put the ghosts to rest. -- Elysian Fields Press

When I read the description of RECEIVE ME FALLING by Erika Robuck, I thought it sounded interesting. I usually tend not to read self-published books or books from smaller presses; however, I had read a few positive reviews about this one and thought I'd give it a try. Plus, I figured that I am always drawn to historical fiction books, and I thought RECEIVE ME FALLING had a somewhat unique perspective on a subject that was new to me. At the very least, I thought I'd learn a thing or two about plantation life during the 1800s in the Caribbean.

I'm having a very hard time articulating my feelings about this novel. On one hand, I thought the storyline was pretty good; and the historical aspects were very interesting. So on that front, I definitely am glad that I read it because it was a good story and I did learn a few things. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I did enjoy parts of the book; however, I definitely didn't love the book as a whole. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn't become "hooked" like I had hoped. Once I put the book down, I wasn't anxious to get back to it.

I've been trying to put my finger on what my problem was with this novel and the only thing I can figure is that it just wasn't polished. I think the premise and approach to telling the story were effective, but I had a few issues with the dialogue of the characters that lived in the past. I didn't feel that much of their dialogue rang true. In addition, I didn't think the slaves' dialect was properly represented. I also felt as if the journal entries at the end of the novel were kind of rushed. I realize that the author used this technique to give some background on the story, but it was a little odd to me. I'm not sure if the reader is just getting a glimpse of the entries or not, but a year could go buy between postings. These aren't major things, but it did detract a bit from the history aspect of the novel.

I don't want to make it sound like I didn't find anything of value in this book because that's definitely not the case. I enjoyed the story and basic concept for this novel; and I liked how the author unfolded the story and even created suspense. I also found both of the main female characters to be likable, and I felt that they were both pretty well-developed. They were both flawed; and as a result, they seemed very real to me. I also appreciated how well the author brought the Caribbean to life -- both in the past and the present. I thought Ms. Robuck's descriptions were beautiful and I could picture the tropical setting and the old house perfectly.

One thing that is going to attract a lot of readers to this story is the element of the supernatural. I'm not usually a big one for supernatural things, but I thought the incorporating of ghosts and ghost stories into this book was very well-done. I liked how the author was able to make the reader question things through the use of ghosts in the present day.

Despite the few drawbacks that I mentioned, I still think RECEIVE ME FALLING would be a book worthy of discussing. Not only did I find the historical elements of this story to be interesting, but I think it would be fun to delve into many of the characters' actions. Some of the topics for discussion include: ghosts, death, and family relationships, honesty and redemption. I found some discussion questions on the author's website that will definitely help focus your group. There were even a few questions about symbols in the story that really made me think.

Thanks to Kelley & Hall Book Publicity for sending me a copy of this book.


bermudaonion said...

This sounds like an interesting book that could use a good edit! Thanks for your review.

Beth F said...

Nicely balanced review. I find it difficult to really love a book that didn't have a tight and professional edit.

Alipet813 said...

Wow, I liked this book a lot more than you did. What you say about the slave dialect did make me think though. I didn't even consider that when reading. I actually posted my review of this today as well. I hope you take a minute and read it.

Beth Kephart said...

One learns a lot from reading such a beautifully balanced review. Thank you for the honesty here.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

This looks so good; I've been seeing it around a lot.

S. Krishna said...

Hmm...I'm not sure about this one, but your review was great. Thanks!