Thursday, May 24, 2012

CBR IV Review #21 - Dunaway's Crossing by Nancy Brandon

This was a free book that I got through the Kindle store.  Mostly, the books I come across for free are terrible.  No offense intended to the authors - they are trying, bless them.  And it's fucking hard to write a book.  But some of them I can't even get far enough into to review (ie In Deep Shitake - do NOT pick that up, it is absolutely terrible).  This was the rare exception - a book I got for free that I would have paid for.

Dunaway's Crossing takes place in rural Georgia during the influenza outbreak of 1918-1919.  Bea Dot, escaping an abusive marriage for awhile, goes to stay with her pregnant cousin Netta.  However, before she can get there, the flu breaks out, provoking Netta's husband to send the women out of town.  Local man (and WWI vet) Will Dunaway takes the women to his home/store, the titular Dunaway's Crossing, to stay and wait out the outbreak in safety. Neither woman is really prepared for this style of living, especially not highborn lady Bea Dot, but they must learn to play the hand that life has dealt them.  Netta's due day approaches; Bea Dot knows her husband will be furious at her lack of return; and Will and Bea Dot start to find themselves feeling things that both know could lead to problems.  In the meantime, in town, people are dropping like flies and no one seems to know how to stop it.

This was a great little piece of historical fiction, which is a genre I have a weakness for when done well (I spent a year reading almost nothing but historical fiction based on Tudor England and LOVED it).  This novel does a lovely job of really transporting you back to that time and place and feeling the fear and exhaustion of everyone involved.  The descriptions of the ill are unpleasant, but not too disturbing, at least not for me.  I could feel the Georgia heat in the air when Bea Dot arrived in Pineview, and Netta's discomfort in her pregnancy.  It was really immersive for me.

I also loved the characters and their relationships.  I rooted for Bea Dot to succeed and get out of her hell hole of a marriage - I wanted her husband, Ben, dead from the start (he opens the book with violence towards her which spurs her trip to visit her cousin).  I loved that Bea Dot and Netta, who have some water under their bridge, managed to love each other and drive each other crazy at the same time.  It felt honest.  And Will and Bea Dot's relationship, especially given the extreme circumstances, felt real to me, too. 

I figured out Bea Dot's secret early on, but it was still sad to read about later.  And if you are a person who cannot abide stories that involve the abuse of women, this is one you might want to skip - poor Bea Dot has to endure a number of unspeakable things. 

I'd definitely recommend picking this one up (it's now listed at $0.99, or free for Prime members) and look forward to seeing what else Ms. Brandon comes up with in the future.

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