New American Library (Penguin) - Historical Fiction
Set in 1839 in North Carolina, Shadow of a Quarter Moon tells the story of Jacy Lane, the daughter of a plantation owner who has lived a fairly easy life until her bitter mother chooses to marry her off to a man whose family is well-positioned. Garrison is lewd and coarse. When her father hears of the liberties Garrison has been taking, he ends the courtship. But, then he is tragically killed and Jacy's mother, Claudia, insists that Garrison is the only man with enough position and knowledge to keep their plantation running.
When Jacy finds out she is 1/4 black, her entire world changes. Suddenly, her mother is threatening to turn her out with the slaves if she doesn't do exactly as she's told. Jacy's world is shattered. But, then she finds out her biological mother and brother are still living on the property. Just as she's getting to know them, Claudia decides to sell Jacy's family, forcing Jacy to make a decision that will lead her on a dangerous journey toward freedom.
Why I did not finish Shadow of a Quarter Moon:
I usually go by the 50-page rule - if a book hasn't grabbed me by page 50, I will not continue. In this case, I got to page 70 before deciding to stop reading. Shadow of a Quarter Moon simply wasn't grabbing me. I found the conversations stilted, the characters flat (for the most part), Claudia and Garrison unbearable. If Jacy had shown a little more personality, early on, I might have continued. The storyline still sounds good to me, but I flipped ahead to see how long it was going to take for Jacy to get up the gumption to leave and it wasn't coming soon enough for me.
Another problem I had is related to the fact that I've lived in the South for over 25 years, now. I've gotten to the point that I can easily spot writing by a non-Southerner. The author lives in Pennsylvania and there's no mention that she's ever lived in the South, so apparently I was correct. If you haven't lived in the South, I have a feeling you'll enjoy this book a lot more than I did. I found myself wanting to scratch through bits of dialogue with a red pen because they just weren't right. But, I wouldn't have caught them 15 years ago, possibly even more recently.
One last problem: Occasionally the author inserted information that should have been mentioned with more subtlety in conversation. In other words, backstory worked its way into dialogue.
I still think this story has potential but I'm not the right reader. I'd recommend it to people who like reading about the Deep South before the Civil War, particularly those who are not picky about accuracy in dialogue. I can't say whether or not Jacy improves as a character, but I think the cover blurb (which I did not copy - the synopsis above is my own) indicates that she develops a little more strength of character as the story progresses.
My thanks to NAL for the review copy.
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