No matter how much you know of the general disaster that was the Jim Crow South, there is nothing like seeing it through the eyes of someone who was born into it, realized it, faced it, struggled against it, and worked to make a difference. If you haven't read something like this, I strongly recommend you add this to your reading list. It isn't ancient history -- it is OUR history (and I'm a White woman).
I realized most of the way through the book that it didn't become a "can't put it down" page-turner for me until Anne went to college. But then it occurred to me why that was: early in her life, Anne is reporting what happened to her, but by late high school and college, she was making choices about her life. And that's the kind of thing that gets me going!
And the author won me over. Paranormal still isn't my thing, but this book used that idea as a tool to talk about forgiveness, hope, community race relations, love, parent-child relationships, and much much more. Let me tell you, Simpson does that incredibly well. She handles difficult topic after difficult topic with grace (no pun intended) and honesty. There are scenes and ideas that I just can't shake, even after setting this novel down.
Very well done (and *especially* for a first novel!), and worth adding to your reading list.
My problem is that my expectations and preferences when I was in seventh grade and started reading the Earth's Children series are quite different from my expectations and style at age 40.
As always, the author paints an incredibly detailed picture of the world and culture at the time of the early homo sapiens. In fact, she does so at innnnnncredible length. Be prepared to read a couple hundred pages (in this one) of detailed descriptions of each and every animal painted in those "painted caves" of the title. You can tell she does her research, and in what other series will you learn the ins and outs of flint knapping?
But what I really mind is the in-your-face leave-nothing-for-the-reader storytelling. There was one particular passage when the author started a paragraph with "The First felt this way...." and the end of the SAME paragraph finished with "Ayla could tell from X, Y, and Z that the First must be feeling...." Rather than letting the actions of the characters inform the reader, the author feels she must tell us everything.
As I said, my expectations have grown since when I started reading the series. I'm not sad I read it, just because after five 700 page books I feel invested in the storyline, but I'm also not sorry I'm done
Until the torpedoing of the ship. And then the whole thing drew me in and held me tightly. This was entirely the stories of the people who survived this harrowing ordeal, and was told in a way that was urgent and compelling.
The final conclusion of the book -- that sometimes the rules are followed but justice is still not done -- is neither surprising nor shocking to me. But it doesn't make the tragedy any less.
I will say, however, that Carver is an absolute MASTER at using language to give a snapshot of a moment in time or in a relationship. If short stories ARE your thing and you don't mind bleak outcomes, this is superbly written and you might love this where I just couldn't