I just finished another ARC from HarperCollins. This one is The Cutting Season by Attica Locke. This is her 2nd book (due in stores September 18). Her first one, Black Water Rising, which I didn't read (and hadn't heard of), was nominated for a number of prizes. HarperCollins handles bloggers a little differently than PenguinGroup did. Here, I get to choose which book, out of 5 or 6, I want to read. With PenguinGroup, they just sent me what they wanted me to have. The Cutting Season seemed the most interesting out of the choices they gave me.
The book has a very cool storyline. Caren Gray is a 37-year old black woman who manages Belle Vie (for the past 4 years), a plantation in Louisiana located between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Caren's own great-great-great-grandfather was a slave on the plantation and then continued to work there as a free man (due to the love of a woman) after the Emancipation. Caren's mother was the plantation's cook until she passed away a number of years earlier (a death that Caren is still trying to deal with). The plantation is an historical landmark that has regularly scheduled re-enactments of the Civil War era. Tourists come to walk the property and see the shows.
Then a murder takes place on the property, and everything turns upside down (I guess that's stating the obvious, isn't it?). Is it one of the plantation employees? Is it the foreman for the sugar cane fields in the next property over, a man who has been tied to deaths and beatings in other areas while working for the Groveland Corporation? Throw in a visit from her ex-boyfriend, Eric Ellis, who is the father of her 9-year old daughter; throw in the re-appearance of Bobby Clancy, who is 1 of 2 sons of the owner of the property and who Caren used to play with as a child (before he grew up and felt the need to treat her as beneath him); throw in a newspaper reporter from the Times-Picayune, out of New Orleans. Add in Nestor Lang, a local detective, investigating the murder; Hunter Abrams, the aforementioned supervisor next door acting on behalf of Groveland; and a host of others, and you have a very eclectic mix of characters.
Attica is a very good writer. She does descriptions and dialogue equally well. Here is an example of her prose:
"They were, each of them, connected across time, across the rolling land of a place called Belle Vie, each navigating a life that had been shaped by the raw power of labor, but also love, their relationships built, seemingly, on river silt, thin and shape-shifting, their family lives a work of improvisational art, crafted from whatever was at hand, like the glistening bottles of Akerele's bottle tree."
Isn't that beautifully written? Okay, here's my problem. The book didn't grab me. There were no characters that I emotionally connected to. As well-developed as the characters were, and as well-written as the story was, I just didn't care much. It wasn't until page 317 that I got the least bit teary-eyed (for those who know me, I'm usually crying in the first 5 minutes of Drop Dead Diva!), and that's only because there was a scene with the 9-year old daughter that resonated a bit (I'm a sucker for kids). Does this make the book bad? Certainly not. Is there anything wrong with not having an emotional tie-in to the characters of a book? Maybe not. I guess it depends on what your expectations are when you read a book. Finally, is there something wrong with me? Quite possibly. But be that as it may, I would have enjoyed it more if I had cared more.