Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Beyond the Cherokee Trail by Lisa Carter

This novel has everything I like in fiction. It is well crafted. It has characters who grabbed me. And it informed me of a heartbreaking time in our nation's history.

Carter combines a present day story with that of the relocation of the Cherokee in 1838, a journey known as The Trail of Tears.

In the present day, Linden, trying to get her fledgling PR career going, has arrived in Cartridge Grove to help the Snowbird Cherokee community commemorate the 180th anniversary of their ancestor's experience. Interwoven into that narrative is the story of Sarah Jane, daughter of the white doctor who helped the Snowbird Cherokee and who went along on the journey.

I don't know how an author could pack any more into a novel. In the contemporary narrative, Linden finds a journal that connects us to the historic journey. Carter has thrown in some romance in the contemporary story too as Linden meets Walker, a Cherokee with a past that affects him still. But Linden has a past too, one that she is not willing to face.

I especially liked the historical narrative. I'd read about the Trail of Tears in elementary school but never gave it much thought. Carter has brought the historical event to life. She helps us see the life the Cherokee had in the mountains of North Carolina and the suffering they experienced in the move. A Reader's Note gives us the history of the treaty and the enforced removal. Of the sixteen thousand moved, six thousand perished along the twelve hundred mile route. Carter's fictionalized account of those historical events is heartbreaking.

The interweaving of the historical and present day stories is done expertly. I found the present narrative intriguing and the historical one captivating. The characters have been developed well and are realistic. Linden and Walker are both flawed characters with hurts that need healing. Linden's grandmother is a free spirit, ready to live the life she was forbidden to have decades ago.

And I love to learn something new in a novel. Not only did I learn about the Trail of Tears in 1838, I also learned some of the current social structure of the Snowbird Cherokee and their feelings toward those not Indian. I learned about being a Marine sniper. I learned about the restoring nature of trees. I saw how guilt and pain can be healed by God with the supportive love of others.

This is a great novel and I highly recommend it. There is an extensive discussion guide and this would make a good choice for a reading group. I'll mention just one of the questions: “If you were to record a final entry into the journal of your life, what would you write?”

My rating: 5/5 stars.

Lisa Carter is an author and has taught at the collegiate, high school, and middle school levels. She is a frequent speaker and vocalist at women's ministry events. She and her husband have two daughters and live in Raleigh, North Carolina. You can find out more at http://lisacarterauthor.com/

Abingdon Press, 320 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.
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