Welcome to the November 6th review stop on the blog tour for The Waltz of Devil’s Creek by Justine Craver, organized by Lola’s Blog Tours. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for other reviews, excerpts, and more!
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About the Book
The Waltz of Devil’s Creek
by Justine Carver
Published 27 April 2020
Genre: Historical Fiction
Page Count: 342
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
Judith Campbell is dying, and she cannot take the painful truth about where her son came from to the grave with her. While on her deathbed in Atlanta, Georgia in 1994, Judith tells him the tragic story of his conception, and which of two men his birth father could be: the young man who professed his love to her, or the pastor who assaulted her.
Set in the Deep South in 1947, The Waltz of Devil’s Creek digs into the dark crevices of racism and women’s rights during a heated political climate in an era of segregation. Combined with Judith’s lack of social stature, and at a time when reporting sexual assault was unheard of, every injustice is stacked against her from the very beginning.
But there is a light in Judith’s young life: her best friend, Joseph Bird, who has loved her since childhood. Joseph stands up for Judith when no one else will and proves that even in the darkest of times, a light is always burning.
My Rating: 4 Stars
I received a complimentary review copy of The Waltz of Devil’s Creek from the author Justine Carver (via Lola’s Blog Tours) in exchange for an honest review as part of my participation in the blog tour for this title. Thank you to both Justine and Lola for this opportunity! This has not swayed my opinion. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Content Warning: Slavery, use of the N-word (variants but no hard-R, used true to history), racism, rape, attempted murder, poverty, arson, teen pregnancy
The Waltz of Devil’s Creek is the beautiful but heartbreaking story of Judith, a teenager in 1947 Georgia who will not be silenced when her entire town wants her to deny the rape and attempted murder she suffered through. The man who did this, a respected religious leader, is protecting the image of his son who plans to run for political office, and the town is immediately against her. Well, the white and rich side of the town, at least. This is the 1940s in the South, after all, and Judith’s parents raised her knowing “how things should be, not how things are.” This is a story steeped in the social turmoil of racism in a time when segregation is still alive in spirit, and the white poor who find kindness and acceptance with the Black community are equally shunned.
I love how strong and passionate the main character Judith is. She spends most of this book refusing to give in and falsely admit that she lied. (Can I point out she didn’t even bring any accusations forth until the town magically knew all about it anyway, but as soon as she doesn’t try to dispel the rumours, game on and game over.) The bulk of this novels takes place in 1947 and follows the events leading to and falling out from her encounter with Pastor Allman, but it’s interspersed with chapters taking place in 1994 on the day she chooses to tell her grown son how he really came into this world. The complexity of emotions she’s fighting with at both stages of her life are so well written. I feel for her so deeply!
Joseph Bird is by far the best part of this novel. It’s clear from the first scenes that he loves Judith, and I was hoping with everything in me that she would eventually realize that. My favourite early moment between them was when they were hanging out in the woods and he was teaching her how to throw a knife.
“Is that how you hold a hammer?” he asked, cocking his head. “You must beat the tar outta nails-“
And a little later on when he asks her if she loves William, and she says she doesn’t know.
“Love is the simplest-and hardest-thing there ever was. Fallin’ in love, knowin’ you’re in love. Either you love him, or you don’t; there ain’t no in between-it’s that simple.”
“And what do you reckon is the hardest part, O wise one?”
“Well, letting go of it, of course.”
Perfection! This made me smile from ear to ear.
I’m tempted to sit here and type out a blow-by-blow of all the best parts, all the awful but important parts, all the heartbreaking and uplifting and breathtaking parts, but I don’t want to spoil it.
With all of that praise said and meant sincerely, now I need to address why I’m not rating this book a full 5 out of 5 stars, and that’s the prologue. The prologue tells the true story and local legend of Devil’s Creek, of a slave named Della Clay and how she murdered her master after he sold her daughter, how she ran to Atlanta, how she was murdered as she crossed Devil’s Creek and an unnamed other slave woman held her as she died. All of that is fine and the story keeps coming throughout Judith’s story. The problem I have with it is that it’s written from Della’s point of view, in her voice, in a very stereotypical 19th century Southern Black slave dialect. Given that there are no photos of the author and very little biographic details I don’t know if she’s a BIPOC or not, but there’s no mention that she is, and the rest of this book is a white woman’s perspective. The book community here in 2020 is up in arms over white authors writing Black voices when Black authors aren’t getting the same widespread opportunity to write their own voices. If Justine Carver is indeed a BIPOC individual then this criticism is invalid and my review can be considered 5 stars, but this is how the situation comes across, and I nearly DNFd the book in the prologue because it felt wrong to read a Black POV in a book with a white woman on the cover and no indication going in that this would be an “own voices” story. If this author is indeed not a BIPOC individual, then that prologue should not have been written in Della’s voice.
I hope that does not discourage anyone from giving this book a chance, because the rest of it is spectacular, and while the POV for the prologue may not have been the right choice, it did come across as sensitively written as possible while being accurate to the time.
About the Author
Justine Carver was born and raised in the Southern United States on a heavy dose of creek-wading, lightning-bug-catching, and Saturday morning cartoons. She is a full-time writer, all-the-time reader, and every now and then, she pulls her head out of the clouds long enough to remember how much better it is up there.
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