Thursday, September 17, 2020

Wingate's Newest Engaging and Moving

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As a first-year English teacher, 27-year-old Benedetta "Bennie" Silva knows she pretty much has to take what she can get in terms of job placement.  Still, she doesn't quite know how she's going to manage her first assignment at an all-black junior/senior high school in little Augustine, Louisiana.  The kids, most of whom are impoverished and jaded, are just as skeptical of her as she is of them.  In a desperate effort to engage them, she begins researching the history of a nearby plantation called Goswood Grove.  When she discovers an incredible story about three young women who set out on a remarkable journey, Benny becomes obsessed with the tale, especially when she finds a connection between it and one of her students.   

Over one hundred years earlier, in the days of Reconstruction, a trio of teens from Augustine hie off for Texas.  Hannah is a freed slave searching for her mother and siblings, all of whom were sold off when she was only six.  Lavinia is the spoiled daughter of Goswood Grove's master, who disappeared without a trace, leaving his plantation and family destitute.  A mulatto, Juneau is Lavinia's Creole half-sister, who goes along reluctantly to keep Lavinia from getting into too much trouble.  Along the way, the unlikely road trip companions will deal with perils of every kind.  Can they learn to rely on each other?  Will each of them find what they're looking for?  Will any of them?

The Book of Lost Friends, Lisa Wingate's newest, has been criticized for being slow and lacking depth.  While I can understand these complaints, I actually really liked the novel.  It introduced me to a piece of Reconstruction era history that I'd never heard of—"Lost Friends" advertisements that helped families torn apart by slavery find each other again.  Not only did I find this aspect of the novel fascinating, but I also enjoyed getting to know Hannah, Lavinia, and Juneau.  Their journey to Texas and into their own pasts had enough drama and intrigue to keep me reading.  All in all, I found The Book of Lost Friends to be engaging, interesting, moving, and thought-provoking.  I loved it.

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, blood/gore, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of The Book of Lost Friends from the generous folks at Ballantine Books (a division of Penguin Random House) via those at NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

6 comments:

  1. I didn't like this one quite as much as you did, more like a solid B grade for me, but I did enjoy it a lot. My complaint is that it was a little farfetched at times when it came to some of the narrow escapes the ladies had, and I never really bought in to the white "heroine." But, like you, I learned a lot about a piece of history I would have never even heard of it not for this book. Bonus points for that alone.

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  2. I'm glad to see you enjoyed it. The blurb has appealed to me since the book came out but the bad reviews have made me nervous. It sounds like it's definitely worth a try.

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  3. Glad to hear you liked this one so much. I do like the way Wingate writes, although I don't always love her books.

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  4. Wonderful review Susan. I also liked this book. I had never heard of the Lost Friends ads. That is one thing I like about her books, she takes a time or event that is not well known and we learn about it.

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  5. Once again, we have similar thoughts. A bit slow in places, but loved the characterizations and well worth the time.

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  6. This sounds good and timely. I'd have trouble with slow, but knowing you liked it, I'd persevere.

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