Official Review: An Uncommon Folk Rhapsody

Please use this forum to discuss historical fiction books. Common definitions define historical fiction as novels written at least 25-50 years after the book's setting.
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CommMayo
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Official Review: An Uncommon Folk Rhapsody

Post by CommMayo » 09 Oct 2018, 16:21

[Following is an official OnlineBookClub.org review of "An Uncommon Folk Rhapsody" by C.J. Heigelmann.]
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3 out of 4 stars
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C. J. Heigelmann’s debut novel, An Uncommon Folk Rhapsody, immediately immerses readers into a world of struggle and hardship, all borne on the shoulders of two children. Upon the death of his mother, Shu-Shay finds himself aboard a ship heading from China to California. On the other side of the world, a girl named Chimanda starts a long journey on a slave ship on her way to be renamed Victoria and installed as a house slave in Alabama. Both children fall into the best circumstances allowable to them at that time in history until they are caught up in the carnage wrought by the Civil War.

Heigelmann weaves a complex story that highlights human kindness and the darker side of our species. Using young children in dire situations, he illustrates that it only takes one person to have a deep impact on a life and their generations to follow. The inevitable start of the Civil War provides the author the catalyst to show how war can harden the heart, but he also illuminates how love can still be nurtured in the worst of circumstances.

At times, the reader is completely swept up by the emotions of the varying characters due to the imagery afforded through the text. Small details make it easy for a modern reader to identify with the life of an army scout, the complex interactions inherent to the master and slave relationship, and the harsh realities during and after the Civil War. At times, the book was reminiscent of a literary love child between Octavia Butler and Charles Frazier.

While the story was compelling and unpredictable, the text is in dire need of another hard edit. In addition to serial comma abuse, there were many instances of missing and incorrect words. Conversations were confusing due to the reaction or description of one character being included on the same line of speech as someone else. An ever-shifting point of view added to the confusion, especially when occurring mid-paragraph.

Despite the grammatical and mechanical limitations, the narrative of this novel was so compelling and interesting that I rate it 3 out of 4 stars. Readers who enjoy antebellum historical fiction or civil war history will find a lot to enjoy in this novel.

An Uncommon Folk Rhapsody is the story of America through the eyes of immigrants. Some came by choice looking for a better life, some came as accidental victims of circumstance, while some were sent to the New World as victims of greed. Regardless of how our ancestors came here, they have all contributed in the shaping of the history of our country and are emblematic of the wonderful diversity alive today. The truth of our origins as a country is something our society must never forget if we are to set aside our differences and work towards the ultimate goal of recognizing each other as members of one human family.

******
An Uncommon Folk Rhapsody
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Debjani Ghosh
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Post by Debjani Ghosh » 10 Oct 2018, 01:02

I enjoyed reading your review! Similar to the title, there is a rhapsody in your review as well. :)
I was inclined to pin this to my TR list until you mentioned the grammatical and other errors. I am going to skip this one.

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Post by ParadoxicalWoman » 10 Oct 2018, 01:21

I enjoy reading your fascinating review for an intriguing historical fiction book like this one. When you mentioned about different origins in America, it made me think about my origin in my own multicultural country. However, I have to put this book on hold until round of editing takes place.
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Post by kandscreeley » 10 Oct 2018, 10:26

It's too bad about the editing issues. Still, this is the kind of historical fiction I enjoy. The darkness of the story might be too much for me at the moment, but I will keep it mind.
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Post by HollandBlue » 10 Oct 2018, 10:31

The idea of children in such dire situations doesn't appeal to me, but I'm glad you found the book interesting.
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Post by jcoad » 10 Oct 2018, 12:25

Great review! I love your closing paragraph. This book sounds like a great story. I love the "dual" life of children brought from different parts of the world. It is always interesting to see how an author recreates their experiences.

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Post by sonya01 » 10 Oct 2018, 13:41

This sounds like an intriguing read, and anything to do with America in the early days interests me greatly, so I'm sure this book will find its place amongst my bookshelves. Your review is clear and concise and, except for the editing issues, it seems like a great book. Thanks!

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Post by Cecilia_L » 10 Oct 2018, 15:47

I was intrigued by the book's synopsis and came really close to selecting it. Despite the grammatical errors, it sounds like an enjoyable read.

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Post by Rosemary Khathibe » 11 Oct 2018, 07:52

I'm not a fan of historical fiction or civil war history, but I like the topic on slavery as it says a lot about the origins of people who ended up in other countries. Fascinating review!

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Post by gen_g » 11 Oct 2018, 09:51

This definitely seems like a unique perspective – I'm definitely intrigued – since we usually see America's story being told from the other POV. (I can't call them natives since majority of the people we call Americans today are also immigrants if we trace them back just a couple of generations more). Thanks for the review!

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Post by Amy+++ » 11 Oct 2018, 10:12

I like the point of view from immigrants during the Civil War. The book seems to bring something different to the table. Great review.

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Post by Julie Green » 11 Oct 2018, 16:43

I love historical fiction but this has obviously been let down by poor editing. What a shame!

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Post by teacherjh » 11 Oct 2018, 20:06

I don't usually read historical fiction, but the Civil War period is interesting. I think seeing it through these two slave's eyes would be a good story.
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Post by Miriam Molina » 12 Oct 2018, 02:50

Perhaps the only Americans native to the land are the Indians, but even they face racial issues. Yes, it is true that all Americans are one family regardless of origin. (It seems the President does not agree, though.)

Taking it further, all people are one.

Thanks for the passionate review. I wonder how Shu-shay and Chimanda aka Victoria end up. Does the cover give a clue? (I wouldn't have thought about the Civil War from the cover and title.)

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Post by Dolor » 12 Oct 2018, 10:01

An Uncommon Folk Rhapsody is the story of America through the eyes of immigrants. Some came by choice looking for a better life, some came as accidental victims of circumstance, while some were sent to the New World as victims of greed. Regardless of how our ancestors came here, they have all contributed in the shaping of the history of our country and are emblematic of the wonderful diversity alive today. The truth of our origins as a country is something our society must never forget if we are to set aside our differences and work towards the ultimate goal of recognizing each other as members of one human family.
I like these lines from your review.

I remembered the rampant kidnapping and human trafficking issues before. Then, the victims were sold as slaves. I wonder if this is still happening recently. I felt so sorry for these kids. It made me wonder how the story would be unfolded. I will read this book. I won't mind the errors. Thanks for the thorough review.

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