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The Second Life of Samuel Tyne Unabridged Audiobook

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Haunting and atmospheric, this debut novel portrays the heartbreak, hardship and moments of surprising grace in the life of a man struggling to realize his destiny. A young man of astonishing promise when he emigrated from Ghana in 1955, Samuel Tyne was determined to accomplish great things. Fifteen long years later, he's an insignificant government employee who hates his j Haunting and atmospheric, this debut novel portrays the heartbreak, hardship and moments of surprising grace in the life of a man struggling to realize his destiny. A young man of astonishing promise when he emigrated from Ghana in 1955, Samuel Tyne was determined to accomplish great things. Fifteen long years later, he's an insignificant government employee who hates his job when he unexpectedly inherits his uncle's crumbling mansion in Aster, Alberta. Despite his wife's resistance and the sullen complaints of his thirteen-year-old twin daughters, Samuel quits his job and moves his family to the town. For here, he believes, is that fabled second chance, and he is determined not to fail again. At first, Aster seems perfect -- to Samuel, the formerly all-black town represents the return to a communal, idyllic way of life. But he soon discovers the town's problems: a history of in-fighting, a strict town council and a series of mysterious fires that put all the townsfolk on edge. When his daughters cease speaking and refuse to explain their increasingly strange behaviour, Samuel turns more and more to the refuge of his electronics shop. As his ambitions intensify, the life he has struggled so hard to improve begins to disintegrate around him, and a dark current of menace in the town is turned upon the Tyne family.


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Haunting and atmospheric, this debut novel portrays the heartbreak, hardship and moments of surprising grace in the life of a man struggling to realize his destiny. A young man of astonishing promise when he emigrated from Ghana in 1955, Samuel Tyne was determined to accomplish great things. Fifteen long years later, he's an insignificant government employee who hates his j Haunting and atmospheric, this debut novel portrays the heartbreak, hardship and moments of surprising grace in the life of a man struggling to realize his destiny. A young man of astonishing promise when he emigrated from Ghana in 1955, Samuel Tyne was determined to accomplish great things. Fifteen long years later, he's an insignificant government employee who hates his job when he unexpectedly inherits his uncle's crumbling mansion in Aster, Alberta. Despite his wife's resistance and the sullen complaints of his thirteen-year-old twin daughters, Samuel quits his job and moves his family to the town. For here, he believes, is that fabled second chance, and he is determined not to fail again. At first, Aster seems perfect -- to Samuel, the formerly all-black town represents the return to a communal, idyllic way of life. But he soon discovers the town's problems: a history of in-fighting, a strict town council and a series of mysterious fires that put all the townsfolk on edge. When his daughters cease speaking and refuse to explain their increasingly strange behaviour, Samuel turns more and more to the refuge of his electronics shop. As his ambitions intensify, the life he has struggled so hard to improve begins to disintegrate around him, and a dark current of menace in the town is turned upon the Tyne family.

30 review for The Second Life of Samuel Tyne Unabridged Audiobook

  1. 5 out of 5

    karen

    i have figured out all the low ratings on this book. it is "sad." that seems to be the major complaint about this book. its sadness. well. shrug. i mean, yeah, this is a sad book. a very very sad book. and for those of you who like books in which an ambitious character gets everything they want and ends up happy as can be with their family and their reputation intact, this would definitely be a two-star book for you. because the reality of the immigrant experience and the demands of family upon a i have figured out all the low ratings on this book. it is "sad." that seems to be the major complaint about this book. its sadness. well. shrug. i mean, yeah, this is a sad book. a very very sad book. and for those of you who like books in which an ambitious character gets everything they want and ends up happy as can be with their family and their reputation intact, this would definitely be a two-star book for you. because the reality of the immigrant experience and the demands of family upon a man who is struggling with his guilt over having abandoned his country in order to pursue his dreams, and the racial tensions that rise up when an african man moves into a small tight-white-knit community when he ALSO has evil-twin daughters? there isn't going to be a happy ending, here. and FOR THE RECORD, this is not just my personal prejudice rearing up - these twins are bad bad baaaad. and our saumel is a gloomy gus to begin with, even apart from the bad things that happen to him. his take on marriage: He admonished himself for not taking advantage of her good mood when he'd had the chance. But that was the nature of marriage, he thought solemnly, an argument that only ends with death. on the emptiness of life: ...all of life's ambitions were mere diversions. Politicians sought refuge in conflicts, the immoral sought it in sex, and many men just worked until they dropped. You did everything to keep yourself from seeing the futility of it. But Samuel had joined that class of men who, having attained a major goal, suddenly see the vanity in wanting it. on the freaking sunrise: ...he meditated on how pointless it was that sunrise was so beautiful when so few men saw it anyway. this is the character we are dealing with - no matter what happens in his life, if these are his various outlooks, he isn't ever going to be happy, even if everything were to work out for him. spoiler alert: it will not! another complaint i am seeing when reading the review of others are the characters - that they are shallowly written. and while i can understand where a criticism like this comes from, in this book, i would have to respectfully disagree. in samuel's case, i think it is a matter less of his being underwritten and more of his having been beaten down so much by his life there is nothing left. he is definitely someone to whom life happens,rather than a heroic man of action, but while he is few of words, his guilt and frustration jumps right off the page at you. this is a story of a man harassed at every turn, who ultimately retreats into a kind of stasis and emotional hidey-hole, who continues to make questionable decisions that haunt him to the bitter end. my only complaint is the situation with the twins. early on, these were shades of the spooky and the supernatural, which never came to fruition. my stance is, if you are going to drop spooky hints, you have got to follow through, otherwise, it just leaves the reader wondering what the point of those scenes were. although i was glad to see that i am not the only one with a twin-fear: When the pregnancy assailed them, Maud had already reached thirty-one, a distasteful age for a first child, both by Gold Coast and Western standards of the time. Her failure as a nanny also haunted her. So it devastated her when not one, but two babies arrived, and not even boys at that. Twins. Both Samuel and Maud were embarrassed to admit that not even an ocean could distance them from their superstitions. For twins were a kind of misfortune. Samuel's great uncles had been twins, and the advent of their birth had brought a maelstrom of controversy to the family. Primogeniture had been jeopardized - without knowing for certain who'd been born first, how could they name an heir? And twins, a freak occurrence, scared people. Only some awful wrongdoing could produce the same person twice. The mother's fidelity came into question; for no man on earth was so virile that he could do two at once. Only the prestige of the Tyne name saved their matriarch from suspicion. Samuel's ancestral experience was enough to put both him and Maud off. you heard it here - twins are the result of some awful wrongdoing. come to my blog!

  2. 4 out of 5

    BlackOxford

    You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country... The context of this novel is a captivating factual history: In the early 20th century a group of several hundred black residents of the new American state of Oklahoma emigrated en masse to northern Alberta in order to escape legalised racism. After a short period of panic by Canada Firsters and the provincial government that this event was the start of mass black emigration from the USA, the community settled into a quiet existence and dispersed graduall You Can Take the Boy Out of the Country... The context of this novel is a captivating factual history: In the early 20th century a group of several hundred black residents of the new American state of Oklahoma emigrated en masse to northern Alberta in order to escape legalised racism. After a short period of panic by Canada Firsters and the provincial government that this event was the start of mass black emigration from the USA, the community settled into a quiet existence and dispersed gradually into the rest of Canada. The population of this real-life community of Amber Valley (the fictional Aster) shifted from black to white in the years after WWII. Edugyan’s fiction starts in the mid-1960’s when few of the original settlers remain but are joined by a cosmopolitan Ghanaian family. The result is a complex racial and cultural clash which she presents with impressive skill and subtlety. Edugyan drip feeds a few literary versions of sociological ‘laws’ throughout her narrative. The first perhaps is that the émigré is never at home until he can condescend to the next émigré. Until then he is culturally vulnerable and uncertain how to act and speak. He can only mimic right up to the moment he can mock. This is the point of authentic naturalisation which is quite distinct from either duration of residence or legal status. One becomes a citizen when others can be seen as less than that. The second ‘law’ is that there are two strategies that the émigré has for dealing with the interim between arriving and arrival: Either aspire to the norms of the new society; or reject them entirely as inferior. Cultural syncretism - keeping the best of both worlds - is not a sustainable option. The first involves a conscious attempt to suppress one’s origins. The second demands social alienation. Both produce an inevitable digression from one’s homeland through absence. No matter which of the feasible alternatives are chosen, therefore, the psychic trauma - for individuals, marriages, children - is intense. Add race to the mix and it is clear why the motives to emigrate have to be extreme in order to overcome the inevitable pain, especially for someone like Samuel, the protagonist, who “might have been the only man in the world to claim vulnerability as his greatest asset.” What is revealed to the émigré is power and its artificiality. Both the aspiration and the alienation of the émigré are symptoms of the exercise of power. The sort of power applied is very specific: “Men do anything to keep other men mediocre, they find any reason. God’s inequalities … this is how they’re overcome.” Jacob, Samuel’s sage uncle and benefactor, has tried to prepare him. “No man can truly rule another... Not even slavery could do it. Remember that,” He admonishes. But without success. But such advice can barely be remembered amidst the daily flow of trivial slights, self-doubts, and disconcerting social customs. In the city these trials are at least impersonal; one can learn the new culture unobserved to a large extent since mis-steps are mostly with transient strangers. In a small town in the middle of the endless vacant plains of Alberta, however, everything is intimately personal. Nothing can be ignored. Mistakes, small errors in judgment, are cumulative. This is an acutely difficult situation for Samuel because “This was how Samuel dealt with things—by ignoring them.” So Edugyan’s dominant theme is displacement. The interesting question she explores however is who is displacing whom in a land historically populated by incomers, refugees, and miscellaneous drifters. The more that extreme conditions - war, poverty, famine, economic collapse - provoke the extreme decision to abandon one’s culture, one’s language, and one’s identity, the more urgently needed is Edugyan’s kind of fiction. There is one final thing to say about the book: Be prepated to weep.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Yasmin

    Here we have a story or is it a tale? Is it fanciful or is it real? Books, all good books of any kind are both and many more. The characters are real to us and because the events are not happening to us they are fanciful, even if it is based on true happenings. Oh and if ever you are looking for why not to dress identical twins in indentical clothing it's buried in here. But it wasn't just the twins that lost and were looking for their identity it was Samuel and Maud Tyne. We go through life for Here we have a story or is it a tale? Is it fanciful or is it real? Books, all good books of any kind are both and many more. The characters are real to us and because the events are not happening to us they are fanciful, even if it is based on true happenings. Oh and if ever you are looking for why not to dress identical twins in indentical clothing it's buried in here. But it wasn't just the twins that lost and were looking for their identity it was Samuel and Maud Tyne. We go through life forming and creating our identity. Leaving home for a new land can heighten the need for an identity or to remold it to a certain way to find a place to call home. But coming to a new country often leaves the person with "culture shock". The different way of formulating a country, beliefs, traditions, mindsets can be a shock. Especially the new people you interact with seem to act and treat you as some kind of slow witted alien. Everyday they subtlety or not so subtlety remind you that you are not from this new country. Every person born in the country and assimilated themselves are naturally superior and unless you drop every little thing and become one of them by accent, clothes and beliefs you are from "over there". Which by and large many people see otherness as a threat. Most especially in small communities. Those are plagued with small minds. It doesn't matter that the founding of these communities were done by immigrants. It doesn't matter that everyone is from somewhere else, with differing accents, clothes, beliefs or skin pigmentations. It's the here and now that counts. Fit in by what ever means necessary or else. What is that "or else"? It's the verbal haranguing at work or the living hell in small communities. Malicious gossip, vandalism, petty crime against person and possession. For many readers they attribute books still to little pieces of moral lessons. If books were really like this we would be swamped with "How to" guides and nothing much else but Girls Own and Boys Own...we had those books, we still do and can be found in second hand book stores, libraries and small local museums. Go to those if you want a book that has a lesson to take at the end of it. Books are by and large telling a good yarn. Some are pure fantasy and some are full of situations and people you find in your life. The Second Life of Samuel Tyne takes a place in the realm of Emile Zola. Only with less death and destruction, however, it is called "realism". There are no heroes or heroines, no one to love and no one to hate. They simply are as they are. But they are interesting and you read about them and will want to know where they will go next or what will happen to them. Their bitter disappointments are intriguing and you know for them and for you life is not all happy dreams and sweet candy. I think I like this book a bit better than Half-Blood Blues.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jonny-Loves-ta-Read

    ****SPOILER ALERT**** The story of Samuel Tyne and his family is painfully drawn out into a full length novel that should have remained a short story. Granted, I don’t even know if this novel started as a short story but I hope it did. A glaring lack of drama makes this book long winded and disappointing. The characters between the covers of Edugyan’s book are deficient. They are deficient not in their ability’s or personalities in the story itself, but they are void of depth and substance. Edugy ****SPOILER ALERT**** The story of Samuel Tyne and his family is painfully drawn out into a full length novel that should have remained a short story. Granted, I don’t even know if this novel started as a short story but I hope it did. A glaring lack of drama makes this book long winded and disappointing. The characters between the covers of Edugyan’s book are deficient. They are deficient not in their ability’s or personalities in the story itself, but they are void of depth and substance. Edugyan swings from one end of the character development spectrum to the other. First, the author gives too much in the way of insight into the character’s minds and emotions. In the same breath you will be confused at the lack of explanation for a characters line or action. I suppose if I had to locate a specific problem with the characters, it would be this: none of them are likeable or engaging characters. Samuel is a sad bastard. His wife is jaded and tired. The twins manage to be frightening and eerie without maintaining any power or spookiness when they are not explicitly acting creepy. Ama is nice in a sort of absent and endearing way, but plays no major role in the storyline until the very end. Indeed Ama is the only likable character in the story. From her awkwardness on her first meeting with Samuel to the end of Samuel’s empty life she remains a constant encouragement to him, as well as to the reader. Samuel could be a compelling character if the reader was allowed in his head more. The story might even be better told from his perspective. I was not in the least inspired by the things Samuel cared about (his electronics shop) and was disgusted by his ineptitude as a parent and lover. When I was not frustrated by these characters, I was skull-crushingly bored. Completely. Why did I finish the book? Because my father gave it to me for Christmas. Damn it. In all fairness to the author, the book does have a moderately strong ending. Samuel’s stubborn character grew on me but not until the last 40 or 50 pages of the book. I cheered on Ama as she recovered from a life of, you guessed it, disappointments and embraces her solitude. Overall, a depressing and narrow read. Perhaps Edugyan’s “Half Blood Blues” has the depth she failed to show in this book, being as she won the Giller prize for it.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Karen

    The story of a Ghanaian immigrant to Canada in the late 1960s through to maybe the early eighties (?)—his life, his family, the risks and unhappinesses and spats and triumphs. Samuel and Maud’s marriage is no great romance, and their twin daughters are strange and alienating. Still, they struggle along. My main dissatisfaction with this book is that for so long it seemed to go nowhere but in circles. Edugyan loves a contradiction—in a mood, a moment, a response. She loves to present something un The story of a Ghanaian immigrant to Canada in the late 1960s through to maybe the early eighties (?)—his life, his family, the risks and unhappinesses and spats and triumphs. Samuel and Maud’s marriage is no great romance, and their twin daughters are strange and alienating. Still, they struggle along. My main dissatisfaction with this book is that for so long it seemed to go nowhere but in circles. Edugyan loves a contradiction—in a mood, a moment, a response. She loves to present something unexpected, and so people love what is painful, are pleased by others’ spites and failures, and suffer pangs when they should be happy. The inconsistencies are sometimes jarring, sometimes brilliant. Overall it felt to me as if the book spun its wheels a little too long before we got traction, in part because of this tendency. But the last tenth of the book releases the timeframe and we get the whole rest of everyone’s lives. This made the book for me, because when you face mortality, contradiction feels not just literary or challenging, but inevitable. A dying man, a child grown up and caring for a parent, a solitary child contemplating the world alone— these are such big topics that they not only accept but demand complex, ambivalent treatment. In its final pages the book brought me in close and made me feel for these people and their complicated, semi-happy, semi-tragic lives.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Christoph Fischer

    "The Second Life of Samuel Tyne" by Esi Edugyan stood on my bookshelf for a long time before I dared reading it. I liked Half Blood Blues so much, I feared it would not live up to it. I must have waited long enough then, because I loved this book. Very moody and quite different in style this book takes us from 1968 Calgary to Aster, a small community in Canada, where Samuel Tyne and his family try to make a new start. The newcomers are welcomed into the community as much as one would expect, wit "The Second Life of Samuel Tyne" by Esi Edugyan stood on my bookshelf for a long time before I dared reading it. I liked Half Blood Blues so much, I feared it would not live up to it. I must have waited long enough then, because I loved this book. Very moody and quite different in style this book takes us from 1968 Calgary to Aster, a small community in Canada, where Samuel Tyne and his family try to make a new start. The newcomers are welcomed into the community as much as one would expect, with some openness but also some hidden agendas. There is a dispute about land that Samuel has inherited from his uncle and other unpleasantness but a series of fires disturbs the community and at home Samuel's twin daughters start playing up. This is great writing, confident and atmospheric, exposing human nature with great observation. I enjoyed this very much.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David W.

    I was very much looking forward to reading this book. I loved Half Blood Blues It seems to be one of those "love it" or "hate it" books I struggled through this book, and when I got to Page 170 of 311 I stopped. I picked up the book to begin reading again and felt a sense of dread and blackness that I realized I could not go any further. When I say "blackness" I was quite serious. All I saw was black as I was reading the book.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Rintheamazing

    It should be noted that my reviews reflect my personal tastes. This was a wonderfully written book, but it was too depressing to want to read again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Tzippy

    I'm not saying it's not a good book. It was just really, really depressing.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Charlice

    The language was excellent, and the context was interesting. The writer is very gifted. The story line was unrelentingly sad, with only the slightest notes of hope in the end. It is a story of people--and relationships--falling apart. Given that I finished the book in one day, there must have been some part of me enjoying it, which is why I gave it three stars, despite my initial inclination to give it two. I was very curious to find out what was the real story with the twins and what further ha The language was excellent, and the context was interesting. The writer is very gifted. The story line was unrelentingly sad, with only the slightest notes of hope in the end. It is a story of people--and relationships--falling apart. Given that I finished the book in one day, there must have been some part of me enjoying it, which is why I gave it three stars, despite my initial inclination to give it two. I was very curious to find out what was the real story with the twins and what further havoc they would wreak. For a while, it felt a bit like a thriller. But just as the story reaches a climax, the writer dispenses summarily with the twins (who provided the only interesting tension in the book) and the rest of the characters simply spiral downward in the most mundane, hopeless ways. I was slightly intrigued by the ending, when one of the twins returns ever so briefly, and we are left to wonder which one. But I don't know if this unfinished thread was intentional so much as it was evidence of the writer losing interest in her own story.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Melany

    This book is dreary and bewildering. I enjoy Alice Hoffman and Neil Gaiman, and I was hoping this book would be something like that. It has an old mansion and spooky twins after all. But the characters make no sense to me. Why are they so blasé about what the twins do? The husband and wife hate each other and there is not one redeeming thing about their personalities. Also why is the word "moist" used so much ? And why is the grass always "chin high"? I read up to page 180, stopped. The next day This book is dreary and bewildering. I enjoy Alice Hoffman and Neil Gaiman, and I was hoping this book would be something like that. It has an old mansion and spooky twins after all. But the characters make no sense to me. Why are they so blasé about what the twins do? The husband and wife hate each other and there is not one redeeming thing about their personalities. Also why is the word "moist" used so much ? And why is the grass always "chin high"? I read up to page 180, stopped. The next day I just couldn't muster up enough interest to pick it up again. I read other reviews that said its a sad story, I don't mind a sad story, but this was bleak bleak bleak. I wanted to reach into the book and punch everyone in the face.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Rosanna

    I wanted to like this book. Her previous book, Half-BLOOD BLUES, was very good. This one attempts too much. Ir is a complicated due to the uniqueness of the setting.We meet a family that has been a part of immagration from Ghana to the Alberta Canada area.The author spends time giving background to the history of this and its effects on the life of Samuel and his family. There were too many story lines and they did not move the story.HE has twin daughters who seem to be brilliant but flawed . Th I wanted to like this book. Her previous book, Half-BLOOD BLUES, was very good. This one attempts too much. Ir is a complicated due to the uniqueness of the setting.We meet a family that has been a part of immagration from Ghana to the Alberta Canada area.The author spends time giving background to the history of this and its effects on the life of Samuel and his family. There were too many story lines and they did not move the story.HE has twin daughters who seem to be brilliant but flawed . They interact with themselves and no one else. His neighbor is trying to take his land away. Samuel seems to have no backbone. Learned a little about blacks in Canada and how they got there.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kiprop Kimutai

    This book was a refreshing read. The writer pared back the story to create an immediacy that allowed me to take in Aster, just as Samuel, the protagonist did. The struggles, the fears, the hopes were raw and honest. If you want to explore a kind of existential angst that comes along with being the new-kid-on-the-block/fish-out-of-water/stranger-in-town read this book. I would have preferred if the story explored the interiority of the two twins, Chloe and Yvette, who acted bizarrely and often vi This book was a refreshing read. The writer pared back the story to create an immediacy that allowed me to take in Aster, just as Samuel, the protagonist did. The struggles, the fears, the hopes were raw and honest. If you want to explore a kind of existential angst that comes along with being the new-kid-on-the-block/fish-out-of-water/stranger-in-town read this book. I would have preferred if the story explored the interiority of the two twins, Chloe and Yvette, who acted bizarrely and often violently. I think I wanted to read about them with more compassion, considering that they were children.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Leslie Reese

    I often fuss about about there not being enough narratives featuring non-stereotypical black people; yet, when I encounter a story like this one, I feel ambivalent because I still want the characters to feel heroic and colorful. I want the characters to have righteous comebacks for pushy people. I want the characters to be good parents. I don't want their children to be weird and unlikable. Esi Edugyan has painted a story of subdued personalities in a world both earthy and ethereal. It is beauti I often fuss about about there not being enough narratives featuring non-stereotypical black people; yet, when I encounter a story like this one, I feel ambivalent because I still want the characters to feel heroic and colorful. I want the characters to have righteous comebacks for pushy people. I want the characters to be good parents. I don't want their children to be weird and unlikable. Esi Edugyan has painted a story of subdued personalities in a world both earthy and ethereal. It is beautifully written and I couldn't put the book down for that reason.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    The story of a Ghanaian immigrant to Canada and his family who gradually lose their way as the adolescent confusion of Samuel's twin daughters turns inward toward destruction.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Disappointing... I really enjoyed "Half-Blood Blues" so this was a bit of a letdown.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer (aka EM)

    This took me a bit to get into, partly because I was half-listening on audio (the narration was just okay) and partly because I'm not sure this really works on audio and partly, or maybe mostly, because the strands of the story take a long while to come together. I'm not sure that all of them, maybe most of them, ever do come together. Many elements of this novel are poignant, interesting and important. It’s Edugyan’s first and I really like her voice, which, with the benefit of hindsight having This took me a bit to get into, partly because I was half-listening on audio (the narration was just okay) and partly because I'm not sure this really works on audio and partly, or maybe mostly, because the strands of the story take a long while to come together. I'm not sure that all of them, maybe most of them, ever do come together. Many elements of this novel are poignant, interesting and important. It’s Edugyan’s first and I really like her voice, which, with the benefit of hindsight having read her second and third efforts, glimmers here. There are spots of quite beautiful writing and imagery. The characters – almost all of whom are incredibly annoying (!) if not downright infuriating – are well-drawn enough that one does feel annoyance and even anger at them. I feel the peripheral characters are almost stronger than the central ones. The whole set of ‘em confused me entirely in terms of their motivations and their relationships with each other. I was never fully invested in the main character, Samuel, nor did I ever really understand him. Why does Samuel hate his job so much? And WHAT ON EARTH is going on between Samuel and Ama? And between Ama and the twins? Why is Ama even there – and then not there – and then there again – and then there, at the end, that points to her importance in some way that was never made clear (see, relationship to Samuel ^^). The twins are another case in point. They add a certain amount of dramatic tension but then (view spoiler)[ they are shipped off and serve only to render Maud ill with grief and essentially to cause her death. (hide spoiler)] Too many characters are foils for others, or for themes, that should instead be presented directly. Instead of illuminating the strongest narrative through-lines (e.g., Samuel’s story, or the insidious racism of this town established by Blacks fleeing Jim Crow Oklahoma), they distract from them. Samuel, the patriarch of a Ghanaian family (he calls it Gold Coast, harkening back to a time and tribal tradition that he left but never really left; and that he feels as complicated a connection as he does with his more immediate family, whom he can barely relate to at all) has moved his family to Aster, AB, after inheriting a house from his Uncle Jacob, one of the town’s founders. The house itself is a character in this story; yet another layer in the narrative that adds complexity to an already groaning-under-its-own-weight plot. Samuel’s should be the central story around which the action takes place, but a lot of what’s going on for him – his obligations to his country and his family there plus his obligation to Jacob, plus his own internal struggles – are under-explored. He is not a character capable of telling us about them directly, and Edugyan never seems to get Samuel into a bright enough spotlight for us to see him clearly. (Again, that could just be me not paying close enough attention ... still ...). We know Samuel has big dreams, was a brilliant student, and has an entrepreneurial vision that goes beyond the small-potatoes appliance repair shop he establishes in his ‘second life’ – he tinkers away on what sounds like the first binary circuit board for some kind of early home computer (?). We know his aspirations remain unfulfilled and thwarted; in fact, they go up in smoke (literally) and wither because of a subtle and then not-so-subtle racism in this very odd little village outside of Edmonton. (It’s based on the settlement of Amber Valley, AB). All the seeds are here for a story that revolves around Samuel and these central themes, but there is a little too much chaff to let us get to the good kernels of wheat before, suddenly, it’s over. So, a good but not great first novel from a writer who will go on to harness her narrative skills in subsequent efforts.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jacquie

    3.5 Really There is so much sorrow and unrealized potential in all the characters. A painful marriage, isolation and sadness is the main theme. he twin girls are haunting and then so tragic. Good story but if you are looking for hope and redemption, this is anything but.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Wendy Orr

    Brilliantly written; I dove right in to the beginning and loved it, but so deeply depressing that by the end I was struggling to finish.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kika

    *spoiler alert* I find it increasingly discouraging that this harrowing tale received such low ratings and negative reviews. The recurring theme I receive from these comments are the gloomy and dark nature of the book, and the under-development of the characters. I absolutely adored this book. It is so morose and depressive and intense. There is hardly a moment of happiness and hope in the story, though I will say that I like sad stories and poems. But there was such a beauty accomplished by the *spoiler alert* I find it increasingly discouraging that this harrowing tale received such low ratings and negative reviews. The recurring theme I receive from these comments are the gloomy and dark nature of the book, and the under-development of the characters. I absolutely adored this book. It is so morose and depressive and intense. There is hardly a moment of happiness and hope in the story, though I will say that I like sad stories and poems. But there was such a beauty accomplished by the author in this. The sadness of Samuel's life echoes the despair that so often plagues humanity-- the desperate trials of Samuel to make his life better are continually rebuffed, and up till his death, he teemed with sadness. He is perhaps my favourite character in the book (close to Maud) because of his restlessly morose spirit. I disagree with the other readers, I felt close and relatable to the characters. I will say that the twins frightened me. I adored the ending as well. The compassion of Ama so closely speaks of the ability of love even in Samuel's own loss of hope. And when the last twin came back, the final message of the story was revealed. Furthermore, I loved this book, and it's enchanting description and flow of words. I wish I knew which twin came back. But at the same time I don't.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jane

    this book has a neo-victorian quality to it, to a point where when edugyen ends with some snarky and satisfying commentary on 20th century albertan politics it was a comedic relief. [spoilers ahead] a prairie gothic that lures the reader to flesh out each of its ghosts and to contend with the full breadth of bodily and spatial haunting, the novel dramatizes the enclosure felt against the Ghanian family in a formerly-Black prairie settlement. i found it hard to read at times, because the point of this book has a neo-victorian quality to it, to a point where when edugyen ends with some snarky and satisfying commentary on 20th century albertan politics it was a comedic relief. [spoilers ahead] a prairie gothic that lures the reader to flesh out each of its ghosts and to contend with the full breadth of bodily and spatial haunting, the novel dramatizes the enclosure felt against the Ghanian family in a formerly-Black prairie settlement. i found it hard to read at times, because the point of view is mostly from the father of the family, and we basically only enter one of the twins' head until the very end, at which point she is so faint, a last vestige of the novel's ghostliness. staying basically entirely out of the twins' perspective was effective for creating the novel's haunting of conscience which also made it frustrating to read (especially if you think about how historically marginalized children are treated on this continent). it brings out the futility of heteropatriarchal family structures and offers small glimmers of communal interdependence as an alternative. in other words, a powerful critique that leaves a lot for readers to unpack. it would be cool to read this work alongside prairie Indigenous literature, that history is basically not explored in this novel, but the marks and effects of settler colonialism are painted astutely...

  22. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    I am the opposite of a lot of people who have written reviews about this novel. I did NOT enjoy her more famous work Half Blood Blues; I felt the ending was abrupt and displaced. However, I loved this one. It was moody and ominous but the highlight was by far the twins. If there is a flaw, it's the title because it was their story more than anyone else's. They drove the plot and intrigue. I feel that most people wouldn't have cared so much one way or another about the other characters but the tw I am the opposite of a lot of people who have written reviews about this novel. I did NOT enjoy her more famous work Half Blood Blues; I felt the ending was abrupt and displaced. However, I loved this one. It was moody and ominous but the highlight was by far the twins. If there is a flaw, it's the title because it was their story more than anyone else's. They drove the plot and intrigue. I feel that most people wouldn't have cared so much one way or another about the other characters but the twins more than made up for it. I almost wish there was a sequel that revealed all of the delicious details going on during their midnight romps (like the cat skeleton missing one paw- ummm wonder how that happened?). That said, it certainly doesn't deserve a rating of 2 because whatever you say about Edugyan's stories, she is a gifted writer and the enjoyment of reading gorgeous writing is enough to garner it a minimum of 3 stars.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Victoria Nkunu

    After reading Half Blood Blues by the same author, I was confident that this novel would be good. And I was proved right. It is a simple story about a man who decides to start a new life with his family in a small town, in order to pursue his life long passion. Unfortunately things do not go as planned and a series of mishaps and conflicts set this family up for a tragic end. Esi Edugyan tells the story well using simple language and references, making it easy for the reader to relate to the char After reading Half Blood Blues by the same author, I was confident that this novel would be good. And I was proved right. It is a simple story about a man who decides to start a new life with his family in a small town, in order to pursue his life long passion. Unfortunately things do not go as planned and a series of mishaps and conflicts set this family up for a tragic end. Esi Edugyan tells the story well using simple language and references, making it easy for the reader to relate to the characters and their struggles. She also incorporates references to Ghanaian culture and some important facts about Canada's history of immigration, making this an educative and enjoyable read. It is definitely a different tone from Half-Blood Blues, but a great story nonetheless.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Dorothy

    An excellent book written by the successful author of 'Half Blood Blues' and 'Washington Black'. This writer is brilliant. Esi Edugyan writes about the Black experience in widely different settings. 'Half Blood Blues took place in Paris in the jazz clubs of the 30s, while 'Washington Black' takes us from the plantations of the Deep South, to the Arctic and to Canada. It is not surprising then that some readers find her work 'sad' or 'depressing'. I feel that we need to hear about the Black exper An excellent book written by the successful author of 'Half Blood Blues' and 'Washington Black'. This writer is brilliant. Esi Edugyan writes about the Black experience in widely different settings. 'Half Blood Blues took place in Paris in the jazz clubs of the 30s, while 'Washington Black' takes us from the plantations of the Deep South, to the Arctic and to Canada. It is not surprising then that some readers find her work 'sad' or 'depressing'. I feel that we need to hear about the Black experience and that these books fill that need to a large extent. Edugyan's prose is wonderful and her skill at story telling is as good as it gets.

  25. 5 out of 5

    April

    I looked forward to reading this, as I had enjoyed Half Blood Blues by the same author. It was a disappointment. While the description and figurative language was compelling in parts, on the whole it was inconsistent. Sometimes it was insightful, but at other times it seemed over done. It was very emotionally dark and the storyline bordered on the absurd. I would not have finished it had it not been on my book club list. I will not recommend it.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Shannon Bradley

    This is a book that has a slow moving story, but it keeps you interested from beginning to end. You get a chance to bond with each character and care about what happens to them. Except the twins. They are an enigma, as they are meant to be. My only complaint is not knowing which of the twins we are with at the end of the book.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I came close to quitting on this book. I just kept going because I didn't have another book handy. In the end I realized that it wasn't just okay, I actually didn't like it. The characters had no depth at all. They had so little dimension that when bad things happened, I felt no sympathy at all. Clearly not worth the time spent.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    The writing is compelling, unusual, complex, and carried me along with the desperately unhappy characters, for whom life never gets better. And then it ends. Half-Blood Blues is also relentless in some ways, but it has some glimpses of humour and love of life. This earlier novel is a first novel, though an extremely accomplished one.

  29. 5 out of 5

    JoAnne

    "Maud grew humiliated,....and she despised herself for caring more about appearances than her children" page 21 "They did that, these women; pretended to console you while gathering enough facts to humiliate you at a Sunday luncheon." page 82 "-never, never, never accept the limits another wants to give you." page 197

  30. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    Very well-written. I liked that this was a story about immigrants that didn't only focus on their experiences as immigrants. The characters are complex and sad with strong desires and live in isolation yet in close proximity to one another. I really liked the community members in Aster: they made life in small town Alberta very vivid.

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