Thursday, September 12, 2013

[Blog Tour] - Review and Giveaway - In the Fields by Willow Aster

I am thrilled to host a blog tour stop for Willow Aster and her fantastic new novel, In the Fields.  I am honored that I was given a copy of this book for review, and I can only urge you to read this amazing, touching book.  Keep reading for my 5 star review and a giveaway!

1971 — In the tiny, backward town of Tulma, Tennessee, optimistic, bookish Caroline Carson unwittingly finds herself in the middle of a forbidden romance. Severely neglected by her family and forced to flee Tulma to protect her secrets, Caroline’s young life comes crashing down around her. She finds refuge in a new town, but the past always has a way of stretching around time and stirring up trouble.  When a new love comes into her life, she has to decide if she can give her heart to someone else, or if she will always be tied to someone she can’t have.

The details described in this book may not be suitable for readers below the age of 18 as descriptions of rape, alcoholism, child neglect, and abuse are depicted.

I don't read books like this.  I just don't.  They usually aren't my thing.  But since I fell in love with Willow Aster's debut novel, True Love Story, I knew I had to give this book a chance.   Thank goodness that I did. 

In this impressive second novel from Willow Aster, I read a story that I haven't read before.  Seriously.  I'm still not really sure which genre this belongs in.  Since the book takes place when the main character is between the ages of 14 and 18, you could say that this is YA.  Of course, the material covered in this book is definitely not YA (see the disclaimer).  Is it new adult?  Not really.  It takes place in the 1970s, so the closest I can come up with is contemporary romance.  But that's the thing about this book - it doesn't fit in any one genre.  It is a mix of genres all tied together with Aster's outstanding writing.

In the Fields follows the life of teenager Caroline in post segregation Tennessee.  Caroline is a beauty - her momma is a former beauty pageant queen.  She is smart, kind and as beautiful inside as she is on the outside.  She is also white.  Her best friend and later love interest is a very intelligent and very handsome young black man named Isaiah.  It goes without saying that an inter racial couple in backwoods Tennessee was frowned upon.  Caroline loves Isaiah for the person he is.  She has no problem with his color.  It's everyone around this fated couple that has the issue. 

"You're everything to me, Caroline.  Everything." 

Caroline has a deplorable home life.  She has taken care of her mother for years.  Her mother who never really wanted Caroline in the first place, is never home.  I mean - she leaves for weeks without telling Caroline where she is or when she'll return.  She is perhaps one of the most nauseating characters I've read about in a very long time. Caroline's dad is a drunk.  Her dad, who used to buffer the negativity from her mother, has left Caroline and is in the process of divorcing his wife.  Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Caroline gets a job in the summer and takes care of herself, spending time with Isaiah whenever she gets a free moment.  Racism goes both ways in this book.  There are two African American boys in town that don't like Caroline for any particular reason.  They give Isaiah a difficult time for loving her.  They are part of one of the most heartbreaking and harrowing scenes in this book - they create a situation that changes the rest of Caroline's life.

One thing about Caroline, though, is that she is a strong female character.  She's not wishy-washy or selfish.  She is pragmatic and learns how to deal with the good and the bad things in her life.  Caroline never becomes hardened or "less" because of her situation.  She never gives up and always sees the good in people no matter how much ugliness has befallen her.  

"I nearly lose my air every time I see you, Caroline.  Even whey you're nor dressed all...cute."  He waves his hand up and down around my outfit.  "And I like that the world can't keep you down.  You're formidable."

After finally deciding that she's better off on her own than with her mother, Caroline begins supporting herself when she is only a teenager.  She is in a precarious position when she moves to a little town in Kentucky.  As she begins her life in Kentucky, she meets many wonderful people who show her what love and family truly is.  The loving and generous doctor, whom Caroline ends up calling "Papa," shows Caroline what it's like to be cared for.  He becomes the parent she never had.  A friend from Tennessee, Ruby, ends up in Kentucky and acts as the confidante that Caroline never had.  And then there's Davis, sweet, sweet Davis, who teaches Caroline how to love again.

Our love is like air and we need each other to breathe.

This is a steamroller of a book.  It will run you over, exhaust you, make you cry ugly tears and tears of joy and it will leave you wanting more.  It is a story about love, redemption and hope.  Of overcoming obstacles and learning to live again after crawling out of the ashes of a dark past.  It's about confronting ugliness and finding the strength to love and trust.  

There is an understated beauty to this book.  The setting, the characters and the very difficult plot lines combine to create an exceptional book that is profoundly moving.  I am not a crier.  I very rarely shed tears when reading books, and most of the time I merely get misty-eyed.  This books killed me.  I shed tears of horror, sadness and joy.  I told the author that I haven't cried this much reading a book since I was in sixth grade and finished Where the Red Fern Grows.  

Buy this book and read it.  Even if you don't think this is your "type" of book.  Willow Aster has a knack for writing relationships - and not just sexy ones.  She writes with such elegance and nuance that I found myself totally engrossed in this story.  With strong characters, aching mistakes and hope for the future, this book is sure to be on many "Best of" lists by the end of this year.

And can we please have a Davis support group?  Please?  ;-)


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