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January 23, 2023

Sweetsmoke: Book Review and Give-away

By Wendy Robards

Sweetsmoke, by David Fuller
Release Date: August 27, 2008

He believed he had already lived long enough. He thought he was over the age of thirty - Jacob Howard was thirty, and they had been born around the same time - and Cassius looked that and more. He now studied the land as if he would never see it again, and tried to memorize it as if he might need to describe it one day. Indeed the land was elegant and sculpted and green and fertile, yet he was so unconnected to it that its beauty did not move him. He believed that he made no mark whatsoever on the land. He memorized but did not imagine carrying the memory with him to a better world. he could not imagine any kind of world that would come with death. He simply saw the end of his time, and in the quiet that followed, he found comfort. -From Sweetsmoke, page 12-

He grieved, he grieved as he looked a the men piled dead alongside the actively dying; he grieved that they would so willingly give up so much just to keep him in subjugation. -From Sweetsmoke, page 276-

David Fuller's debut novel Sweetsmoke is set on a Virginia plantation in 1862. We hear the story through the point of view of Cassius, a slave to the Howard family, whose distinctive voice is unforgettable. Cassius has worked hard as a carpenter for Hoke Howard and his loyalty has earned him favors on the plantation as well as resentment from the slaves who toil in the fields. Then Cassius gets word that his friend Emoline - a freed slave who is part fortune teller and part herbalist - has been murdered. When he realizes her death will go unpunished, Cassius' anger at his people's enslavement and ill treatment bubbles over and he decides to seek revenge against Emoline's murderer. His investigation not only uncovers secrets, political intrigue and betrayal...but opens a door to his heart which he had thought forever closed.

Sweetsmoke is a rich atmospheric novel of the South during the Civil War. Entwined in the story are the frequent injustices and crimes against enslaved blacks including beatings, hobblings and the theft of their children, who are torn from their mothers' breasts to be sold into slavery. Fuller writes gripping dialogue and offers the reader characters who are complex and memorable. The reader's heart will ache for Marriah, grow cold toward Ellen, and pound with fear for Cassius as the pages to this novel seem to turn themselves.

Perhaps most moving of all is the glimpse into the mind of a man who has only known slavery but who is still able to dream of freedom. Fueled by his love for Emmoline, Cassius is willing to risk everything to right the wrong of her death and in doing so he awakens a part of himself he thought had died.

"And you would seek poor Emoline's killer?"

It seems that I would.

"In the midst of a furious war, where dead white men are common and the death of a free black woman carries less weight than that of a horsefly, for when the horsefly meets its end it ceases to be an irritant, you imagine that you will find her killer?" -From Sweetsmoke, page 134-

Sweetsmoke is subtle, beautifully written and compelling. It is a story which reminds the reader of a shameful time in history when the color of one's skin meant humiliation and sometimes death. But it is also a story of courage and honor in the quest for freedom, and a portrayal of what it means to have one's own identity.

Highly recommended.

Four and a half stars out of five.

Blog Give-Away: Sweetsmoke, by David Fuller

In the tradition of March and The Known World, Sweetsmoke is a stunning first novel set during the Civil War, featuring an unforgettable character named Cassius, a slave working on a Virgina tobacco plantation. -From Hyperion Books-

Thanks to Hyperion Books AND author David Fuller, I am hosting a giveaway of this dazzling novel. One lucky winner will receive a SIGNED, FIRST EDITION, hardcover copy of Sweetsmoke by David Fuller. The give-away will run from August 20th through September 3rd. You may earn up to FIVE chances in the giveaway.

Sorry, this give-away is open only to United States mailing addresses.

**Please note, all entries will be done by EMAIL. The email address for the giveaway is: bloggiveaway (at) aol (dot) com.

Please read the "rules" to enter below.

I. For ONE chance to win:

  • Write about this contest on your blog, then EMAIL me at bloggiveaway (at) aol (dot) com with a link to your post.

II. For TWO chances to win:

  1. Visit the author's website and locate the Plantation Map (hint: it will be found under the "Works" tab). Answer this question: What is the name of the street where the main character Cassius lives?
  2. Visit the author's website and locate the Q&A with the author (hint: it is also found under the "Works" tab) and answer TRUE or FALSE to this statement: The author's ancestor General Turner Ashby was a slave owner.
  3. EMAIL me your answers at bloggiveaway (at) aol (dot) com

III. For FIVE chances to win:

  • Do ALL of the above (blog about it, answer the plantation map question, answer the Q&A question) and email me the link to your post about the giveaway, and the answers to the questions at bloggiveaway (at) aol (dot) com.

Please do not leave comments on this post to enter the giveaway. ONLY EMAIL responses will be accepted as entries. If you want FIVE chances to win, please send me only ONE email with all the information in that email. Thank you...and GOOD LUCK!

The winner will be announced on September 3rd and I will also send an email to that person requesting a snail mail address so that the publisher may mail your book directly to you. Please make sure your spam filters are adjusted to allow email from the giveaway email address!

Catch all of Wendy Robard's reviews in her fabulous blog, "Caribousmom".

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Article © Wendy Robards. All rights reserved.
Published on 2008-08-18
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