Thursday, August 25, 2011
Far Away Home by Susan Denning
She had no strength to stay awake and bid the disappointing year goodbye.
I picked it up on a lark (cheap on kindle, good reviews), and while it started strong by the end it was only disappointing. Far Away Home tells the story of Aislynn, a teenager from New York in the late 1860s who moves west to fully realize her independence after her father dies. According to blurbs on Amazon, Denning put in a lot of effort to make sure her book was historically accurate, which allowed her to paint vivid portrayals of the characters and settings that I appreciated. The first quarter or so of the book was especially good. Denning brings the characters to life through several moving scenes, at least at first. But then, about when Aislynn heads west, the book starts to unravel. Gone is the depth of all the characters except our protagonist, and she becomes uneven. Whereas I was moved by Aislynn's neighbor/love interest's recollection of Aislynn's mother's death (when Aislynn's mother doesn't even actually appear in the book), when one of the main characters dies towards the end I could only muster up a hearty, "Eh." I find a good rule of thumb when evaluating books is that if you start rooting for the protagonist to die in the end because they are annoying, the book has become boring, or both, then it's not a great book. Also, Denning drops the ball on the conclusion; Where she was probably going for meaningful and hopeful, she ended up with my-editor-needs-a-final-draft-by-wednesday-shit-how-am-I-going-to-finish-this-oh-well-here-goes-nothing...
Also, Denning doesn't do a good job of making the conflict matter. For example, at one point a couple that Aislynn befriends on the trip out West tips over in their covered wagon and drowns as Aislynn looks on. And at this point if I wrote one more sentence I'd have equaled the amount of time that Denning spends on this presumably traumatizing event.
I could go on, but hopefully no one else will read this book, so I'll leave it at that.
Posted by billy at 11:00 AM