Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shadow of a Quarter Moon by Eileen Clymer Schwab - DNF

Shadow of a Quarter Moon by Eileen Clymer Schwab
Copyright 2011
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.

©2011 Nancy Horner. All rights reserved. If you are reading this post at a site other than Bookfoolery and Babble or its RSS feed, you are reading a stolen feed. Email for written permission to reproduce text or photos.


  1. Anonymous2:00 PM

    Thanks for the honestly negative review; I always appreciate reading one. I fear sometimes we can be too eager to praise.

    I also really appreciate your criticism of backstory sneaking into dialog. Yes! I know exactly what you mean, and it drives me crazy. I feel like it's a very lazy thing for an author to do, and it really ruins the flow and any feeling of authenticity. So I sympathize with you; I think this would have killed it for me, too. It's a shame because I also find the story line interesting in theory.

  2. Julia,

    I think there was a lot of potential in the idea and maybe the right readers will really enjoy it, but I think it was the inauthenticity of dialogue that killed it for me. I'm glad I'm not the only one who gets irritated with backstory worming it's way into conversation!

    I try to be honest without ever sinking into antagonism in my reviews. I hope I succeed. Sometimes I feel like I jump a little too hard on the negatives but I always try to mention what's good about a book, too -- even those I can't finish. Thanks, I'm glad you appreciated the honesty! :)


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