Receive Me Falling by Erika Robuck
Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Elysian Fields Press (January 5, 2009)
Review copy from author, via Bostick Communications
The Burton Review Rating:
"Every slave story is a ghost story. The haunting words of an historian and former cane worker on the Caribbean island of Nevis launch Meghan Owen on her quest to unlock the secrets of an abandoned sugar plantation and its ghosts. After Meg's parents die in a car accident on the night of her engagement party, she calls off her wedding, takes leave of her job in Annapolis, and travels to land she's inherited on Nevis.
A series of discoveries in an old plantation house on the property, Eden, set her on a search for the truth surrounding the shameful past of her ancestors, their slaves, and the tragedy that resulted in the fall of the plantation and its inhabitants. Through a crushing phone call with her lawyer, Meg learns that her father's estate was built on stolen money, and is being sued by multiple sources. She is faced with having to sell the land and plantation home, and deal with the betrayal she feels from her deceased father.
In alternating chapters, the historical drama of the Dall family unfolds. Upon the arrival of British abolitionists to the hedonistic 19th century plantation society, Catherine Dall is forced to choose between her lifestyle and the scandal of deserting her family. An angry confrontation with Catherine's slave, Leah, results in the girl's death, but was it murder or suicide?
Hidden texts, scandalous diaries, antique paintings, and confessional letters help Meghan Owen uncover the secrets of Eden and put the ghosts to rest."
This novel has a beautiful cover and the whole of it had intrigued me from the first moment I saw it. I then saw mixed reviews so I kept putting the reading of it off. There were reviewers that complained of the typos or small errors, but that happens when a self-published book goes to print. On the outside, this is the best looking self-published book I've seen. Yes, there are a few punctuation type errors on the inside, a couple spelling errors, but after reading many uncorrected advance reader's copies, these don't distract me very much any longer. If you get a sense of deja-vu, it's probably because you've seen this book in the blogosphere closer to its publication date last year. Now I'm doing catch up, and I am so glad I picked this one up to get lost in. And get lost in it I did; I didn't want it to end! With each turning page, I saw the ending coming closer, and as much as I wanted to know what would happen to these fantastic characters, I didn't want it to stop.
This is the fascinating story of Nevis, a small island in the Caribbeans that sounds amazingly beautiful. When Meghan visits it, she finds the old plantation that her father had owned in a shambles, but it exudes an aching sense of mystery that intrigues her. The walls are covered with vines and foliage, and they even reveal a fantastic mural on one wall which is one thread of the mystery within the plot. The estate is a place that was once called Eden, and her father had neglected to mention to her that this place had existed and belonged to their family. When Meghan's parents die, she goes to the island to appraise the property and take a few weeks off from real life at the same time. Meghan is a rich kid, used to living the high life, and likes to drink. But the reader still feels a bit sorry for her after the sudden loss of her parents. The romantic angle comes into play when Meghan postpones her marriage because of her parent's tragic death, and she left the fiance in the states while she went off to explore Nevis. It left the reader wondering what would ultimately happen in the relationship, but luckily the fiance doesn't give up on her.
And then we are introduced to the other side of the story, and that is the story of the Dall family, who were the last owners of the plantation of Eden, many generations before Meghan's visit. There is a hint that Meghan is somehow related to the Dalls and the plantation, but this does stay under wraps until towards the end of the book and it does not turn out as obvious as one would assume, and still ends a bit murky in that respect. The Dall family consists of a father and daughter running the sugar cane plantation, in the midst of slave uprisings and the British abolishing slavery. The novel flashes in between the two time periods which builds more suspense rather than irritates, and I was intrigued by the young Catherine Dall and her empathy for the slaves on her sugar plantation. There are ominous undertones of mystery when it is Catherine's turn in the story, as there are some men around Catherine who make you cringe when they appear. They oooze with the you-are-evil-factor.
The author did very well with the supporting characters, as there were plenty to read about in this story from both time periods. The modern-day Meghan met some interesting locals in Nevis, and the historical part of the novel included fictional but highly believable characters such as Albert and James Stilwell, who supported and led the way of the movement of abolition in the novel. Along with the mystery factor, there are also ghostly tendencies but I would hesitate to say it is of a paranormal leaning, but this factor was present along with folklore and I think the author did a good job of not overdoing it with this characteristic of the novel.
I had to do some research on my own to learn the background of Nevis, and of the slavery issues in the early 1800's, because the novel didn't tackle it fast enough for my impatient self. Once I did that little bit of outside googling, I felt better acquainted with the struggles that the farmers and plantation owners were facing at that time in history. The slavery issue was one of the main threads of the story and I commend the author for reminding us what it was like for the slaves during those times. I was intrigued and held in suspense for the majority of the novel and I really enjoyed the experience. Those readers who have read Katherine Howe's "The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane" which came out just after this novel, will recognize the similarity of the structure of the book; if you enjoyed that read, you will enjoy this historical read as well. I believe this novel is a fascinating and imaginative piece of work, and I look forward to her next novel which uses another beautiful setting of Key West. Erika also blogs at http://erikarobuck.wordpress.com/
Jan 18, 2010
Receive Me Falling by Erika Robuck