3 out of 5 stars to If The Creek Don’t Rise, an historical fiction novel set to be published in August 2017, written by Leah Weiss. I enjoyed reading the book, selecting 3 stars because it had several strong parts but also some concerns that I’ll share later. Overall, I’m glad I read it.
Why This Book
I read the description of this book via NetGalley, where I search for all my ARCs, and thought it would be a great read prior to my upcoming trip to North Carolina, where I may be stopping in the same rural mountain area.
Plot, Characters & Setting
This is an ensemble book about a cast of 10 characters in the mid 20th century who live in the rural area of the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. It covers a few events that occurred to some of the townspeople in Baines Creek, providing the view points from different sides of the story. It centers around Sadie Blue, a 17-year-old girl who marries the man who has just gotten her pregnant. From there, the book covers domestic abuse, murder, religion, family, love and friendships. At its core, the novel covers the various relationships built in the town, understanding who sits back doing nothing versus who takes action when they are passionate about the outcome and protection of life.
Approach & Style
I read the electronic version on my Kindle via an iPad over the course of five nights. The book is about 300 pages, each 20 pages long across 15 chapters. Each chapter is told from a different character’s point of view, written in the first person perspective. Dialect is important given the book is recreating life during a historical time period in a very specific region where culture and society are quite different.
The characters are very clear and distinct. Each of the major players has a voice you will recognize and understand. Sometimes you will love them and sometimes you will hate them, but each one will leave an impression.
The setting is quite strong. You will feel transported to this rural town in the mountains. From the description, to the dialect and to the way the story unfolds, it matches what you’d expect from the constructs of this type of environment. You will feel like you are in the town.
It deals with very specific personal and family issues that will resonate will a lot of people. From a social perspective, it highlights things that happened in the past that were almost condoned or allowed to happen, due to people’s fears and lack of education or knowledge.
When I read the description, I thought it would be a great plot and story. But when I read the book, it was quite different. This is not a novel where a primary plot point drives the chapters. It’s a character-driven story that tells of the happenings in a small town. The plot isn’t as important as the way each of the characters interpret it. I found myself skimming pages to get to the crux of the story, but it never happened. It’s a preference style, and I think the book should be marketed differently and have an alternative description or cover summary. It would help find a different set of readers who enjoy this type of book. Had I known, I might have spent more time investing in the characters in the beginning rather than trying to piece together a plot that wasn’t going to become any more clear. That said, it’s still a well-written book and will appeal to a wide audience.
Author & Other Similar Books
Although they are not of the same caliber, it reminded me of the book Beartown by Fredrik Backman. Both books cover highly controversial social issues within a small town, telling the story of how everyone reacts to a few critical events. Where Beartown brings a focus on plot, this book is more about how people interpret society’s values and actions.
It’s the author’s first book, but she shows a lot of promise. I would read another of her books, but I’d want to be careful to understand the plot and approach to telling the story to verify it matches with the way I like to read a book.
In my world, a 3 is a good review. It means you had good elements and a few things I didn’t quite latch on to. If this had a little more action and some clarity around the plot and point of the book, I might have given it a 4. That said, it will definitely resonate with many readers given it has a strong pull to connect you to the characters and the setting. Hope you enjoy it.
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