Thursday, May 28, 2020

Luminous and Lovely, The Last Blue Captures Both My Interest and My Heart

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"At her expense, readers will snatch up magazines and entertain themselves, using her as a measure against their own deficiencies, as a consolation for their incredible fortune of being ordinary" (161*).

Despite winning a Pulitzer Prize for a photograph depicting the grimness of The Great Depression, 32-year-old photographer Clay Havens is feeling uninspired.  His creative juices have turned to sludge and he's fairly sure his newest assignment isn't going to provide the spark to get them flowing again.  As part of President Roosevelt's plan to sell his country on his New Deal, he's sending journalists into Appalachia to "capture the rugged, steadfast nature of hill people, whether they possess it or not, and to portray their hardship in a way that will make the public sympathetic to their plight and ready to cast their votes accordingly" (14*).  Feeling more like a propagandist than a photographer, Havens nevertheless travels to eastern Kentucky with his reporter friend, Ulys Massey.  Another prize-winning photo may not be hiding in the hollers, but at least the assignment will keep Havens and Massey out of the breadline.

When the pair arrives in Chance, an offhand remark from one of the small town's more unsavory residents piques their curiosity.  Rumors of a scorned family of people with blue skin send them traipsing through the woods to Spooklight Holler.  Havens is immediately entranced when he and Massey come across a skittish young woman with skin the color of a robin's egg.  A deadly snakebite lands Havens in the extended care of the woman's family.  As he and Massey spend more time with the infamous Blues, they become fascinated by their way of life and horrified by how the family has been treated by their White neighbors.  While Havens spends his time wooing kind, gentle Jubilee, Massey's itching to sell the Blues' remarkable story to the highest bidder.  Reluctant to oust the already hunted people who have been so good to him, Havens searches frantically for a way to stop his partner from causing more trouble for Jubilee and her family.  The city slickers' presence has already prompted violence locally; what will happen if Jubilee's beautiful blue face is splashed across the cover of Time?  Caught between duty and love, Havens scrambles frantically for a solution that will stop Massey, protect the Blues, and convince Jubilee to give him a chance with her fragile heart.  With Chance's White population already whipped into a heated frenzy against the Blues, Havens' time is rapidly running out ...

Earlier this year, I read and adored The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson, which featured the Blue people of Kentucky.  So, when Isla Morley contacted me about reviewing her newest novel, which was inspired by the same fascinating clan, I jumped at the chance to grab myself an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of The Last Blue.  I'm so glad I did because just as The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek did, this one immediately captured not just my interest but also my heart.  I loved everything about it, from its engaging heroine to its atmospheric setting to its tender love story to the ending that almost undid me entirely.  While the book touches on issues of prejudice, fear, exposure vs. exploitation, identity, family, and self-discovery, at its heart, it's really about love in all its messy, life-changing glory.  If you, too, are intrigued by the Blue people, or if you just enjoy rich, immersive historical fiction, I absolutely recommend picking up a copy of this luminous, lovely novel.

Intrigued?  Good.  Learn more by checking out this interview with Isla Morley:


(Readalikes:  The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson and Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (two F-bombs, plus milder expletives), violence, disturbing subject matter, scenes of peril, and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Last Blue from the always generous Isla Morley.  Thank you!

*Quotes are from an uncorrected proof and may be changed in the final version of The Last Blue

6 comments:

  1. I like the sound of this one. This was such a fascinating time in history!

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  2. You've completely sold me on trying this book. I already have The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek to read. I'm endlessly fascinated by these interesting historical stories of people and ways that I haven't known about. I'll watch the interview as well. Thanks, Susan!

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  3. I definitely want to read this one! :)

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  4. Blue skin? It just seems so strange. Glad you loved this one.

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  5. There are a few books about the blue people recently published.

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  6. Wonderful review Susan. I also loved The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek and did a bit of my own research on the Blue People. This book sounds wonderful and your review has sold me on it. I am heading over to Amazon right now.

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