Saturday, January 23, 2010

Going to be pondering this one for a while

Like most independent booksellers, I've got my complaints about But their Amazon Encores program is doing at least one thing right - bringing new attention to Zetta Elliott's A Wish After Midnight.

I know I'm late to the party on this one, but wow.

Short version: You'd think Gemma had enough to deal with in contemporary Brooklyn, but no, she timeslips back to 1863, when Brooklyn was its own city and the Civil War was well underway. And then she's stuck for a while. See all the other reviews I linked to for a more comprehensive plot summary; I'm more in the mood to talk about specifics.

  • There's an obvious Kindred parallel here - modern black female ends up back in pre-Emancipation America and all that entails, Gemma manages to bring her boyfriend back and that throws all sorts of snags into their relationship - but AWAM stands alone. Not the same story, not the same conclusions, and absolutely nothing wrong with taking inspiration from Octavia E. Butler.
  • The Latin Americanist in me is intrigued by the choice to make Gemma half-Panamanian. It's not one of the countries I'm best informed on, but I do know it has a considerable Afro-Latino population. (And that part of me also cringed when Gemma's mother said her daughter was black, not Latina. Would love to know if that side of Gemma's ancestry is going to figure in the sequel.)
  • You want to read a book with a sense of place? AWAM's got it. This isn't overdone hipster Brooklyn; it's a vividly drawn world that we tend to ignore when we think about that borough.
  • So much about women's roles here, both in the contemporary and historical sections. Still trying to organize my thoughts about the space between conforming for survival and selling out, Gemma and Judah's relationship, and women who are left alone.
  • Love, love all the allusions and name-dropping. Five Points, Henry Ward Beecher's "mock auctions" - and if you're at all familiar with Glory, you can't help but cringe when Paul decides to join up with a Massachusetts regiment. *That* I want to see more of in the sequel, but only if he doesn't end up on that beach in South Carolina.
Source: ARC shared by Doret, who probably got it from Amazon somewhere along the line. Review copy, in other words. And I'm happy to share it with someone else. Leave a comment if you want to be next!


Colleen said...

There was a ton in this one that impressed me as well - so glad you read it!

Oh - and as covers have been such a big deal lately, isn't this one lovely? Just a beautiful cover that drops some hints and is true to the characters and story. A perfect example of how to do a cover well.

Sarah Rettger said...

Yes, this cover is gorgeous - the original one was nice, but the colors here are so much more eye-catching.

susan said...

Oh, I'll be linking your review Sarah and I'm putting you on my blog roll. Pardon me for taking so long.

Love your review. I'm looking forward to sharing new copies of AWAM. I'm down to only my signed copy.

Sarah Rettger said...

Thanks, Susan - both for the compliment, and for your part in bringing this book to everyone's attention.

Olugbemisola (Mrs. Pilkington) said...

fantastic review of a wonderful book. thank you.

a. fortis said...

It sounds fabulous! The first thing I thought of when you mentioned the short plot summary was Kindred, too--and what a great source of inspiration to draw from. I'll definitely be looking for this one.

Zetta said...

Hi, Sarah! It was nice meeting you this past weekend at the Empire State Book Festival--and thanks again for pointing me in the direction of WORD!