One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow, by Olivia Hawker
Published by Lake Union Publishing, 8th October 2019
Genres: historical fiction, westerns
One of my favourite reads of 2020 so far!! I had been hearing such a great buzz around this book, I knew I just had to read it for myself, and I was not disappointed.
Let me set the scene: two families living in the unforgiving Wyoming frontier, carving an existence out of the wilderness. Suddenly a catastrophic event casts both families into severe difficulties, forcing them to band together in order for them all to survive the winter, in spite of the fact that the women of each family are very much at odds. Imagine an entire, cold and snowy winter spent indoors with someone who cannot stand the sight of you! And so the story unfolds.
The structure of the book was different from anything I had encountered before, and I very much enjoyed it. The story is told from four different perspectives, both mothers and their respective teenage son and daughter. The only first-person narrator is Beulah, the eldest daughter, and it is very much an interior monologue, giving us an inside view of her thoughts and how she perceives the situation.
What most captivated me about the book’s structure was that each chapter is told from a different perspective, a different narrator describing the same event from their perspective. In this way, you experience a situation from four different people’s point of view and I just found it an amazingly effective writing style. Each chapter in the sequence also begins with the same sentence or words, which help to tie the whole thing together.
One of the central preoccupations of the story is what it means to be a man.
“Men didn’t feel fear, or pain, or sorrow. Men did not regret. Wasn’t that what Clyde’s father had always told him?”
Clyde struggles to move past the definition of being a man that was imposed upon him by his abusive father and become the man he wants to be. I see this as representative of men these days. There has long been a received notion that men had to be strong, unfeeling and ruthless, never showing fear or pain or grief. But, nowadays, men are striving to make it more acceptable to show and accept “weakness”. I think it is an important message because that is where true strength lies and maybe more men need to read about a character like Clyde and his journey towards accepting himself as he is.
I really loved this book and would recommend it very happily.
My rating: 5/5