Monday, April 27, 2020
Published August 2019 by Atria Books
Source: checked out from my local library
In July 1913, twenty-five-year-old Annie Clements had seen enough of the world to know that it was unfair. She’s spent her whole life in the copper-mining town of Calumet, Michigan where men risk their lives for meager salaries—and had barely enough to put food on the table and clothes on their backs. The women labor in the houses of the elite, and send their husbands and sons deep underground each day, dreading the fateful call of the company man telling them their loved ones aren’t coming home. When Annie decides to stand up for herself, and the entire town of Calumet, nearly everyone believes she may have taken on more than she is prepared to handle.
In Annie’s hands lie the miners’ fortunes and their health, her husband’s wrath over her growing independence, and her own reputation as she faces the threat of prison and discovers a forbidden love. On her fierce quest for justice, Annie will discover just how much she is willing to sacrifice for her own independence and the families of Calumet.
Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow is one of my all-time favorite books and I've been meaning to read more of her work for a long while. So when I chanced upon this one, I hardly even glanced at what it was about. But look at that cover and look at that description - you know I was going to read this one, regardless of who had written it. It checks off so many of my wants in a book. Strong woman? Check. Historical fiction about the U.S.? Check. A book about a subject I've been wanting to read more about? Check. Based on a real person and real events? Check and check.
There's no doubt that Russell is an impressive researcher. Which is part of the problem with the book. She has packed so many facts and historical figures into the book that it's hard to actually connect with most of the characters and Russell doesn't leave herself much room to really develop them. Annie Clemenc was a fascinating person and Russell does a fine job with her for the most part, but other characters are flatter. Further, the outcome of the real strike is known and Russell chooses here to stick with the historical facts in so far at that is concerned instead of veering into the fiction piece of the genre. It makes for something of a flat ending.
All of that makes it sound like I didn't like the book. I did. I learned a lot and I kept thinking of the ways it took me back to Wiley Cash's The Last Ballad, about the mill strikes of the 1920's. I loved Annie Clements and was disappointed to find that the real Annie Clemenc's life didn't get much better after the strike. Ten years ago, before I started blogging (and really understanding how many books there are out there that I'll never get to), I would have been perfectly happy with this book, which I'd give a solid 3 stars, if I gave out stars. There's nothing wrong with a 3 star book. This one just suffered in comparison to its 5-star brother and all of the other really great books I've read this year.