Sunday, March 2, 2014

Stillwater (Book Review & Giveaway)

Title: Stillwater
Author: Nicole Helget
Publication Information: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, hardcover, 2014, ISBN 0547898207
Genre: Historical Fiction      
Setting: 19th century Minnesota

Plot: Clement and Angel are twins left at a small orphanage in the frontier town of Stillwater, Minnesota.   Angel, adopted by a wealthy local couple, is the victim of Munchausen by proxy syndrome, while her brother, Clement, left cruelly behind at the orphanage, is cared for by the headmistress nun and an elderly Indian, Big Waters.  Stillwater Home for Orphans is also an important stop on the Underground Railroad, and even as a child Clement becomes involved in the transport of this precious commodity – human lives.   Davis, the son of one unfortunate runaway slave, is taken in by the kindhearted women in Stillwater’s brothel, The Red Swan (their antics provide some humorous relief to the dark depiction of frontier life).  As the three children grow up, their lives remain connected although Angel’s marriage causes heartbreak to Davis, causing him to enlist with Clement in the Stillwater Guard of the First Minnesota (shades of Emily Webster’s grandfather!).  Depiction of life in the Union Army makes even the turmoil of Stillwater seem like a picnic.

Audience:  Fans of Cold Mountain/Charles Frazier; March/Geraldine Brooks; The Last Full Measure/The Life and Death of the First MinnesotaVolunteers/Richard Moe; Marie Blythe/Howard Frank Mosher.

My ImpressionsHelget is an accomplished writer, and this book caught my eye when I noticed that she had received her B.A. and M.F.A. from Mankato State (Mankato is also the real life home of MaudHart Lovelace, author of the beloved Betsy-Tacy books).  However, I found the book both readable and very dark, full of lonely and mistreated characters with nothing to look forward to.  At times, that prevented me from enjoying her prose as much as I had hoped. In addition, the author’s back and forth from present day to flashback was confusing.  I was intrigued by the background concerning Minnesota moving from being a territory to a state, a part of Minnesota’s history with which I am unfamiliar.  
Source: Thank you to the Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours which provided me with this book in return for an honest review.  I urge you to stop by the tour to learn more about the author and see what various bloggers had to say about this book:   

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, February 24
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Guest Post & Giveaway at La Vanity Victorienne

Tuesday, February 25
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, February 26
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book

Thursday, February 27
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, February 28
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews

Monday, March 3
Review at Lost in Books

Tuesday, March 4
Review at Confessions of a Book Hoarder

For one lucky reader, I have a book to give away (US/Canada only) – please post a message if you are interested, and I will pick a winner later in March.

Author: Nicole Helget shares her thoughts on writing and her influences on  her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.


JaneGS said...

I was intrigued by the premise, but uniformly bleak doesn't really do it for me.

Anonymous said...

I am interested. I just finished 38Nooses and you can't get much bleaker than that.
I would like to read more about MN as I am a born and raised Cal kid with very few points of reference for so many things in MHL.

Jamie Watson