Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Review: The Springsweet by Saundra Mitchell

Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Publishing Date: April 17th, 2012
Genre: YA, Historical Fiction
Pages: 275 pgs
ISBN: 9780547608426
Source: Received from Thomas Allen & Sons for an honest review

My Rating: 3.5 stars

Summary from Goodreads:
Heartbroken over the tragic death of her fiancĂ©, seventeen-year-old Zora Stewart leaves Baltimore for the frontier town of West Glory, Oklahoma, to help her young widowed aunt keep her homestead going. There she discovers that she possesses the astonishing ability to sense water under the parched earth. When her aunt hires her out as a "springsweet” to advise other settlers where to dig their wells, Zora feels the burden of holding the key to something so essential to survival in this unforgiving land. Even more, she finds herself longing for love the way the prairie thirsts for water. Maybe, in the wildness of the territories, Zora can finally move beyond simply surviving and start living.

My Review:  
I read The Vespertine, the companion novel to this book, when it first came out and the writing in that book is beautiful so I was excited to get a copy of The Springsweet for review.  For some reason it took me a long time to pick this book up.  As much as I liked The Vespertine, I found myself hesitant to read this book.  I think it has something to do with the fact that I have a ridiculous TBR pile and I kept wanting to read other ones.  Anyhow, all this to say that while I kept putting off reading this book, it was a really good book.  I love Mitchell's writing style and I also love how she infuses so much history into her stories.  I liked reading about Zora's point of view this time around.  Her story starts off and she is heartbroken over the death of her fiance.  She doesn't want to enter society again and begins to explore her option of moving west to marry a widower.  In the end, she does venture out west to live with her aunt.  It is here that she discovers that she can see different water systems which is helpful when trying to dig a well.
This book paints a vivid description of the "wild west" but it also adds a little twist with some supernatural-like abilities.  One thing that I found interesting is the relationship between the while settlers and the First-Nations people in this book.  There is never any direct contact but there is some talk of people knowingly or unknowingly settling on First-Nations land.  There is a lot of friction that went on between these two groups of people.  What I find especially interesting is that both Zora and her love interest discover that they have abilities that bring them right back to nature.  They are almost one with nature and this is a concept that is well-embraced among First-Nations people.  I will note that this is not the main focus of the novel but it is just something that I remarked when reading it.
Zora is a really likable character.  She has her moments but for the most part she is strong-willed, independent and loving.  I loved seeing her interact with her younger cousin and also develop a relationship with her aunt.
I quite enjoyed this book but the one thing that I would change is it's length.  While the description is beautiful and the writing is exquisite, I did find that it lagged in some parts.  I think that if the book was a bit longer there could have been a little more action added to the novel.  I also have to admit that when I read the last few lines of the book, I just wished that Mitchell had continued her story.  I suppose I will have to wait for the next book to come out to find out what happens.  Overall I give this book 3.5 stars out of 5 and I suggest that you give it a try.

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