The Greenwood Legacy

The site LibraryThing has a group called Early Reviewers in which you can sign up to receive ARCs (Advance Readers Copies) of books if you agree to review them.  Recently I received the book The Greenwood Legacy by Jacquelyn Cook.

This is the story of one family’s dynasty in Georgia, set in the 19th century (1827-1889).  The story of the Jones family is told from the arrival of two young newlyweds to a pine forest wilderness in South Georgia, their establishing a home, their experiences, their challenges, their children and grandchildren, over the next 60 years.

I like reading a fast-paced tale, but the speed of this story was disconcerting, to say the least.  While the historical aspect was interesting, and the writing itself evocative, everything moved much too quickly for anything to be covered in depth.  In one sentence a beloved baby dies, in the next sentence everyone is devastated, then in the next paragraph, whoops!  It’s a year later, and another baby has just been born.  At times it was if I was reading an outline, where all points needed to be covered.  It was hard to get invested in the lives of the people for just this reason.  

The pace was also too fast for the vast number of characters that were included in the saga.  The couple themselves, their (many) children, their siblings and cousins, their siblings’ suitors/spouses/children, all the children’s spouses and their children…  Every time I picked up reading from where I left off I had to quickly flip back to remember who all these people were and how exactly they were connected.   Eventually I didn’t bother, but just kept reading.

On the flip side, the only part that dragged for me was the part covering the War Between the States.  The texts of letters from the front seemed to go on too much. I know they were taken from actual documents and therefore the writing style was drastically different from the author of the book, but in truth I found that to be distracting. 

As I mentioned, the historical research and the context of the story was fascinating.  The author has added the human factor, the emotions and interactions, to the basic facts known about a particular place at a particular time in history.  My only reservation about how she has done this is in her handling of the subjects of Native Americans and slaves.  In this family’s story their “people” were like a “part of the family”, and the word slaves is never mentioned.  And they were kind-hearted people who felt bad about the treatment of the Indians but relieved when the “troubles” between the Indians and the new settlers were over, when at the end of the Seminole Wars the tribe members were chained and removed to the Oklahoma Territory.

The home that the Jones family built – Greenwood – still exists today.  Jacquelyn Cook has added life and colour to its history.

Today’s mitzvah:  Helped a fellow who was lost.  Someone had steered him in the wrong direction, and I made my taxi driver wait while I explained to the guy exactly how to get to where he needed.  Offered to drop him off with the taxi, but he preferred to walk.  The driver thought I was nuts, since it would have been in the opposite direction, but never mind.  I’m used to people thinking I’m nuts.  😉

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