Welcome to Imprint Friday and today's featured imprint: Harper Perennial. Stop by each week to be introduced to a must-read title from one of my favorite imprints. I know you'll be adding many of these books to your wish list.
On September 2, 1885, the white citizens of Rock Springs, Wyoming, massacred the Chinese immigrants who were working the local coal mines. Brian Leung centers his haunting Take Me Home on this event, telling the stories of Addie, who moves west to be with her homesteading brother, and Wing, who is the Chinese camp's cook.
Here is the publisher's summary:
Adele "Addie" Maine is returning to Dire, Wyoming, forty years after the deadly events that drove her away from her husband without a word.I have long been attracted to historical fiction set in America's west of the late 1800s. When boarding trains or wagons in Saint Louis, homesteaders and entrepreneurs saw only possibilities and golden futures in the vast unclaimed lands and new towns of the wild west. The reality was much harder and more limiting than most could ever have imagined.
Years earlier, when Addie first heads West to stay with her brother Tommy, she is wary of the Chinese working alongside the white men in the local coal mines. But when Tommy falters at homesteading and the mine becomes their only path, Addie's eyes are opened through her association with one Chinese man in particular, Wing Lee—and a bond forms between them that is impossible and forbidden, even in a territory where nearly everyone is an immigrant. Together, Addie and Wing harbor a secret, and when racial tensions escalate to a combustion point, Addie will face a devastating choice between fighting for what is right . . . and survival.
Take Me Home is a searing, redemptive novel that explores justice in a time of violence, and the sweeping landscape between friendship and love.
For Addie, Wyoming brought loneliness, continued hardship, and an unwanted marriage. Her relationship with Wing offered the only light in a bleak existence. When asked if she had fallen in love "with that Chinaman," Addie answered:
It's love, . . . but not the kind you're thinking. It ain't like anything I known. . . . He told me once I made him feel good because he had someone besides himself to care for. I suppose I felt the same.Leung is a talented writer who is equally adept at characterizations and at descriptions. Addie is so well drawn that you can't help but hope that things will somehow turn out right for her, although you fully realize the constrictions of her world and of Wing's. Earlier in the month, I teased you with a passage from the beginning of the novel; today I'll end with one closer to the end:
Full daylight was slow in coming, felt delayed. A thick fog had settled into the woods, an opaqueness that made lines of small birds look like thread being drawn through gray cloth. Above her the dogwood leaves were turning pinkish red. In a couple weeks, they'd be on the ground. Another fall, and then another cold winter. Was this her life? (p. 212)Take Me Home covers a broad range of issues (such as prejudice, love, survival, and hope) within a specific historical context, giving the reader plenty to think about.
Here are some other opinions (click on the links for the full reviews):
- Jenny Shank, writing for The Dallas Morning News: "Leung's writing is so clear and lovely and his characters are so well-realized that he convinces the reader that the improbable attraction between Wing and Addie wasn't impossible, and the character of Wing speaks eloquently for thousands of Chinese miners whose voices are lost to history."
- The Kirkus review: "An engaging and beguiling novel about prejudice, relationships and the possibilities of redemption."
- T. E. Lyons writing for LEO Weekly: "Some of the secondary characters get short shrift, but that’s only noticeable because the balance of vivid characterization, engaging scene-setting and realistic plot development is so good."