BOOK REVIEW: If Jack’s In Love by Stephen Wetta

If Jack's in Love by Stephen WettaIf Jack’s In Love
By Stephen Wetta
Completed September 21, 2011

Jack Witcher’s family is the black sheep of the neighborhood – poor, living in a tattered house with a lazy father, overwhelmed mother and hellraising brother. In If Jack’s In Love, Jack narrates this coming of age tale where we learn about his evolution from a Witcher boy to a young man with a mind of his own.

Jack is in love with Myra Joiner – a girl from the other side of the track (the right side, per se), whose brother, Gaylord, disappears one August night. The Joiner family smells foul play, and immediately Jack’s older brother, Stan, is a suspect. Stan and Gaylord have a history of not getting along, and with Stan’s quick temper, Jack’s not sure if his brother didn’t kill Gaylord. What he does know is that he loves Myra, despite the tragedies that have affected both families.

If Jack’s in Love is the debut effort by Stephen Wetta, and unfortunately, I think Wetta’s rookiness as a writer showed through. The pacing of the novel was a bit off, and I think the story would have been strengthened by dual narrators – Jack and his mother. Jack’s mom was an interesting character – a woman who married the wrong guy and whose life didn’t end up like she hoped. She would have added the right blend to this tale of family loyalty.

If you like coming of age tales, If Jack’s in Love is one to add to your wish list. Jack’s narrative was enough to carry the book through, despite some writing flaws. The ending wrapped everything up, and I was glad Jack’s story resolved because he’s a kid most readers can root for. I know I did. (  )

FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher for review on my blog.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

The Kitchen House by Kathleen GrissomThe Kitchen House
By Kathleen Grissom
Completed September 7, 2011

When we hear about the “labor force” of the antebellum South, we often hear about enslaved Africans, forced to work the land in an unimaginably oppressive life. Kathleen Grissom, in her debut novel, The Kitchen House, depicts another type of forced labor – the indentured servant – in her novel about family, slavery and plantation life.

Set in the early 1800’s, the story opens when Lavinia arrives at Tall Oaks, a plantation in Virginia, as a young girl fresh off a ship from Ireland. Lavinia is an indentured servant – left without any family – and is placed in the care of Belle, a young slave woman who works in the kitchen house. At first, Lavinia is sickly and withdrawn, but as the months progress, she becomes stronger and more dependent on her new family, led by slave Mama Mae, her husband George and their children.

The Kitchen House is Lavinia’s tale of growing up on the plantation and her struggles of being a white girl raised in a black family. The story, though, is divided between Lavinia and Belle, whose narrative offers candid views of slave life. Lavinia’s narrative is equally candid – showing everything from drug abuse to pedophilia. A lot of bad things happen to the characters in this book; it’s amazing anyone could see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I found the first half of the book to drag on, the middle to be gripping, and the ending to be rushed. Lavinia’s story, though, interested me enough to urge me forward. I question the historical accuracy of many aspects of this novel, especially how things fell together at the end, but all in all, The Great House was a good read. Fans of historical fiction should consider this book, especially if they enjoy tales about the Old South. (  )

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