Tuesday, February 7, 2012


Lost Saints of Tennessee
Amy Franklin-Willis

Rating: C-

Won from Good Reads' First Reads Giveaway

Synopsis from goodreads.com:

With enormous heart and dazzling agility, Amy Franklin-Willis expertly mines the fault lines in one Southern working-class family. Driven by the soulful voices of forty-two-year-old Ezekiel Cooper and his mother, Lillian, The Lost Saints of Tennessee journeys from the 1940s to 1980s as it follows Zeke’s evolution from anointed son, to honorable sibling, to unhinged middle-aged man.
After Zeke loses his twin brother in a mysterious drowning and his wife to divorce, only ghosts remain in his hometown of Clayton, Tennessee. Zeke makes the decision to leave town in a final attempt to escape his pain, throwing his two treasured possessions—a copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and his dead brother’s ancient dog—into his truck, and heads east. He leaves behind two young daughters and his estranged mother, who reveals her own conflicting view of the Cooper family story in a vulnerable but spirited voice stricken by guilt over old sins and clinging to the hope that her family isn’t beyond repair.
When Zeke finds refuge with cousins in Virginia horse country, divine acts in the form of severe weather, illness, and a new romance collide, leading Zeke to a crossroads where he must decide the fate of his family.
My thoughts on the book:
I entered to win this book because I was born and raised in Tennessee and because I thought the premise sounded interesting. I'm aware that it's not my normal Paranormal fare, but sometimes different is good, and overall, different was good in this book. The plot, though predictable, was emotional. I felt sympathy for each of the characters. The idea of switching between the 1940s and 1980s is pure genius, and the fact that Franklin-Willis switched tenses with it was even better. She also switched narrators mid-stream in order to give the mother, Lillian a chance to tell her story. For the rest of the story, the narrator was Zeke. 
One would think that when using that many literary tricks to make the book unpredictable that it would have been, well, unpredictable. Instead, I could predict every single situation's outcome before it happened. Many of the secondary characters were also stock/cookie-cutter characters. We had the typical jealous, whiny wife and the bratty teenage daughter. The only two characters who seemed to have any depth were Lillian and Zeke. It seemed like Franklin-Willis wasn't sure how to develop a character who wasn't a narrator.
Another problem with the book is that the situations were resolved too easily. None of the characters had to struggle that much in order to resolve their problems. That means that none of the characters really grew throughout the novel. I don't see the point in a book when the characters don't grow over the course of the novel. That's the entire point of reading a work of fiction, to watch the characters grow. Of course we all like  the romance, suspense, etc., involved in works of fiction as well, but all of those plot devices serve to make the characters grow. In this book, I didn't feel like the characters grew that much. 
Another thing that annoyed me, though this was just a personal preference, was the use of religion throughout the book. I really don't like to feel like a book is preaching to me, and at times, I did feel that way. I realize the southeast is the Bible Belt, and I know that Christianity plays a big part of their lives, but really it just got on my nerves. I mean I'm living back in the south now, and it still annoys me when people start preaching. I just don't like the preachy thing. I don't think it was intended this way in the book, but I felt that the whole God-fearing/loving thing was a bit too aggressive.It reminded me of some of my least favorite relatives.
The pacing of this book is pretty spot on. Even though I knew what was happening for most of the novel, I didn't get that bored. Franklin-Willis kept things interesting by exploring different aspects of the characters'lives and by switching from past to present. 
Overall, I did not enjoy this book as much as I thought it would. For some reason, I was expecting a unique bildungsroman, or at the very least, a story in which the characters grew. However, for those who enjoy Southern Literature and the writing style associated with it, you will probably love this book. The writing itself is well-done, and I truly believe that once Franklin-Willis gets a few more books under her belt and works through her problem areas, she will be an unstoppable force in Southern Literature. 
Want to buy Lost Saints of Tennessee?

1 comment:

  1. If a book mentions Kentucky I'm pretty much doomed to read it, good or not. I'm about 30 minutes from Tennessee so I was a little curious about this, but doesn't sound quite right.

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