Friday, October 29, 2010

#BookReview: Page from A Tennessee Journal - Francine Thomas Howard

After reading about how great this book was over at BrownGirlSpeaks, I knew I had to add it to my "to be read" list.  I'll admit that I added it February, but just now got around to reading it.  What can I say? My list is long.

Page from A Tennessee Journal tells the story of a mother struggling to raise her four children in 1913 Tennessee after her husband leaves them.  Annalaura Welles knew better than to marry John.  Her Aunt Becky told her he was a sporting man, but she was too enamored with his good looks and flattered that he chose her from all of the women in town.  Twelve years after they said, "I do," John took off in the middle of the night leaving Annalaura to figure out how to harvest the 40 acres their family sharecropped for the McNaughtons.

When John Welles left his family he didn't plan to be gone for long.  There's no way Annalaura could understand how he felt.  No man in his right mind wanted to sharecrop for the rest of his life.  He knew that Alex McNaughton had cheated his family out of what they rightfully earned the previous season and he thought that if he could just get up to Nashville, he would be able to earn enough money to buy his own farm.  He would have told Annalaura, but he knew she'd find the words to stop him.

Much like Annalaura, Eula McNaughton was in awe of her husband, Alex.  Eula was homely and knew it, so when Alex McNaughton showed up at her family's door asking for her hand in marriage, she readily accepted.  Though tending a farm was a step down for her, it was better than being an old maid, which was where she was headed just shy of her 21st birthday.  Eula runs the farm like clockwork and caters to Alex's every whim.

Alex McNaughton has no use for the coloreds.  As long as they work his land and stay out of his way, they're alright with him.  Noticing that the middle 40 acres of his land aren't being harvested properly, he sets out to confront John Welles.  He doesn't get a chance to talk to the long gone man, but he does have a chance to speak with his wife and that meeting sparks more than a passing interest for him.

What did you like about this book?
I loved that each of the four main characters was fully developed.  As a reader, I was able to see everyone's side to the story and even some background on why they behaved as they did.

What didn't you like about this book?
I can't say that it was the book, but I disliked the way women were treated as property.  I know that it was due to the time period, but I still didn't care for it.  Both John and Alex were in love with Annalaura and both, especially John, treated her as less than human.  For John to leave without word and stay gone for over a year, then magically reappear like a few gifts and kind words would make everything okay? No sir!  I was mad for Annalaura.

What could the author do to improve this book?
Not a thing.

Published March 2010

Theme: Billie's Blues by Billie Holiday

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