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Essie Chambers

Auteur de Swift River

1 oeuvres 56 utilisateurs 2 critiques

Œuvres de Essie Chambers

Swift River (2024) 56 exemplaires, 2 critiques


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Swift River is an intriguing debut novel about a teenager who feels like she doesn’t fit in her small town. But for Diamond, it’s more than teenage angst – it’s race and class related.

Diamond is the only child of a Black father and white mother in the small northern mill town of Swift River. Her father disappeared when she was a child and rumours continue to fly as to what happened to him. She and her mother struggle financially and her mother is lost without her father, drifting between jobs in a haze of painkillers. For Diamond, it’s difficult. She is the only Black person in town, after everyone else left decades ago due to the restrictions put them. She’s overweight and not popular. But over the course of a summer, things begin to look up for Diamond. She receives a letter from an aunt, who tells her the history of not only her father, but other relatives in Swift River. She makes a friend and starts to see life past Swift River.

The story drifts between timelines – Diamond in the current day (1987) and back to 1980 as her parents’ relationship was becoming more fraught before her father disappeared. Letters from Diamond’s aunt Lena tell the story of Diamond’s father’s youth as well as their aunt Clara in early 1900s Swift River. It sounds like a lot to keep up with, but it flows well together. The first three quarters of the novel are interesting – the plot isn’t fast, but the story of Diamond and her parents is engaging. As the summer draws to a close, the plot speeds up and everything comes to a conclusion very quickly and neatly. There’s one last letter from aunties Clara and Lena and the closure of the disappearance of Diamond’s father. The last chapter goes decades into the future, briefly (but vaguely) mentioning that happens to Diamond and her mother. I didn’t feel like that was necessary, I felt that the element of hope and changed fortunes was enough for closure.

I would have also liked more details about Clara’s life in Swift River after her family and friends left. I wasn’t aware about ‘sundown towns’ – where Black people couldn’t be outside after sunset – and their effects on towns and generations of racism. I felt Clara’s story could have been strong enough for its own novel. (Perhaps there’s a bit of first novel syndrome where everything has to be packed into the one story). However, the writing is atmospheric with Diamond’s reactions to all the things that have happened in her life really jumping off the page. Diamond is a unique character, carrying a lot of weight on her young shoulders – looks, and being poor and Black in a relatively well to do white town. Her struggles and achievements are strongly felt, particularly as the novel draws to a close.

It’s a solid debut novel, and I look forward to Chambers’ next novel.

Thank you to Hachette for the copy of this book. My review is honest.
… (plus d'informations)
birdsam0610 | 1 autre critique | Jun 22, 2024 |
Set in the mid 1980's, mostly in a small New England town, this is the story of a close mother and daughter living on the edge. Diamond's father disappeared years ago without a trace, and her mother has gone off the rails since then. Their only hope financially is to get the father declared dead in order to collect his life insurance. Meanwhile, Diamond is attempting to escape her restricted life by secretly taking driving lessons and by corresponding with her father's family who live in the South. As her father's family's history is described in letters, Diamond learns about the terrible price the family paid due to prevalent prejudice and racism. This is a novel about resilience, women's strength, and family.… (plus d'informations)
sleahey | 1 autre critique | Apr 5, 2024 |

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½ 3.3

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