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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New York Editor Praises "American Sycamore"

 
American Sycamore
By Karen Fielding
Paperback
Publisher: Seren
ISBN-10: 1781721173
ISBN-13: 978-1781721179
Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 4.9 x 0.9 inches
Shipping Weight: 4.2 ounces
Available for purchase on Amazon com and Amazon UK

 
Reviewed by Dana Micheli, New York Editor, Writers in the Sky
A Goodreads five-star review


 "Fielding captures America's unique physical landscape -- and dysfunction -- in a truly palpable way.  Not since reading Joyce Carol Oates could I so easily step into a book." Dana Micheli

Her longer review is as follows: 

It is a rare pleasure to be completely  immersed in a book-when a writer is able to engage all five senses so the reader feels like they are truly there. That's what Karen Fielding did when she created the beautiful, tragic world of American Sycamore. It is the story of Alice Sycamore, a young girl coming of age in the rural Pennsylvania of the 1970s, as well as the turmoil of dealing with her mentally ill brother.
Fielding's prose is achingly beautiful, with descriptions of nature so vivid it reminded me of Alice Hoffman. With every page of American Sycamore, I could smell the brackish odor of the Susquehanna  River, feel the desolation of walking along it on an icy winter day, and the insects landing on my skin during a hot, sticky summer.
But what I loved most about Fielding's writing is its subtlety. Humor in the face of emotional agony  and matter-of-fact statements must be used by only the most skilled writers, and even then very carefully, lest they downplay the drama of the story. In Fielding's hands, they give this drama yet another layer of realism. We see the ignorance of these times through the eyes (and funny, cryptic statements) of Joseph Lightfoot, a Native American who is trivialized by white society but gains wisdom from the ghosts of his ancestors. This also serves as a bit of irony, for Alice's brother, Billy-a manic depressive- also sees things that others cannot. Is Billy completely crazy, or does he also possess a particular brand of supernatural wisdom? While it is most likely the former, it did give me pause. I would be hard-pressed to name many authors--Joyce Carol Oates being one of them--that conveys human emotions and family dysfunctions so simply and so honestly.

 

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