1 out of 4 stars
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1949: The Day You Walked in My Shoes is a historical fiction novel written by H. Shankle. Following the struggles of a line of black French women blessed in the voodoo arts, this book is set in a racially tense atmosphere, circling itself around a supernatural role reversal and a lesson well learned.
When a family travels down south for their relatives’ funerals, they come face to face with the prejudices and deep-rooted hatred that seem part and parcel of their new location. There is more to the murder of their relatives than racial bias, however. A will detailing the inheritance of a prime piece of land is being desperately searched for by their enemies, and the family’s lives are even more at risk when it falls into their possession. Simone, the mother, starts to recount her maternal history, explaining how a line of powerful French voodoo practitioners suffered at the hands of – then later sought vengeance on – their enemies. When it returns to her time, the danger her family feared has finally reached them. All is not lost, though, as her and her daughters’ blood run strong with magic, and they mete out a befitting punishment to their enemies.
Let me begin by stating that the premise of the story is actually quite interesting. It joins real-life atrocities with supernatural components, so an eerie vibe is never absent from the story. The irrational biases and inhumane treatment of people of colour in the 1940s were adequately illustrated, finding common ground with an intriguing mix of time travel, spellcasting, curses, and bloodline legacies.
It honestly felt like my brows were raised all throughout the progression of this story. The greatest source of my dislike stemmed from when the book bludgeoned its way into a redemption arc for the antagonists. It was largely focused on their seeing the errors of their ways, which I felt took away from the tragic experiences of the protagonists. Their perspective was made even more difficult to relate to or sympathize with because they only showed a modicum of regret and character growth in the last few paragraphs, which was too little, too late. Additionally, the closing of the story felt rushed and not properly explained. I had to skip back a few pages before I realized the sequence of events, as there was a lack of transition in the writing.
A poor narration style, an atrocious editing quality, and an unnatural flow made this book almost painful to get through. Every sentence – and I state this with zero exaggeration – was riddled with errors. The names of characters did not remain consistent, like the switching of Zeke to Zee and Simone to Savannah. Some sentences were overlong, with no break or pause to facilitate ease of readability. These factors led me to assume that this book has not been professionally edited.
I feel that a content warning must be issued. Apart from having triggering elements, such as rape, child death, and near infanticide, profanity is also present in the dialogue, mostly in the form of slurs and abusive language.
With all this in mind, I rate this book 1 out of 4 stars. The errors present in the story, the jumbled nature of the plot, the unsatisfying ending, and the general lack of enjoyment I felt while reading this book all culminate in a deduction of three stars from my final rating. As it stands, I believe that this book requires a thorough round of professional editing before it could elicit any form of enjoyment in its readers. It is thus impossible for me to recommend 1949 to any audience.
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