Friday, February 28, 2014

Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours Book Review: Stillwater

Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover; 336p
ISBN-10: 0547898207
Clement and Angel are fraternal twins separated at birth; they grow up in the same small, frontier logging town of Stillwater, Minnesota. Clement was left at the orphanage. Angel was adopted by the town’s richest couple, but is marked and threatened by her mother’s mental illness. They rarely meet, but Clement knows if he is truly in need, Angel will come to save him.
Stillwater, near the Mississippi River and Canada, becomes an important stop on the Underground Railroad. As Clement and Angel grow up and the country marches to war, their lives are changed by many battles for freedom and by losses in the struggle for independence, large and small.
Stillwater reveals the hardscrabble lives of pioneers, nuns, squaws, fur trappers, loggers, runaway slaves and freedmen, outlaws and people of conscience, all seeking a better, freer, more prosperous future. It is a novel about mothers, about siblings, about the ways in which we must take care of one another and let go of one another. And it’s brought to us in Nicole Helget’s winning, gorgeous prose.


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This has to be one of the more unique books I've read in a long time. In fact, it is one I find hard to find words to describe it. It is set during the Civil War period, but that doesn't play a huge part in her story. It is more about Angel and Clement and their lives and the people that touch them.

The two are twins that are separated in infancy. Clement is left at the orphanage while a rich family in Stillwater, adopts Angel.

Stillwater is a logging town in Minnesota and it is a story that details the hardships and losses of people settling in the area.

It is about freedom and social issues and so much more than I can explain. The story is told from so many different perspectives that sometimes it feels confusing, but it always comes back to Clement and Angel and how they got to the place in life that they were in the 1860's and beyond.

It isn't a happy book by any means. Frontier life was seldom happy and Nicole Helget really brings that front and center.

Clement is the character you will love along with Big Waters and Mother St. John. His twin Angel, not so much, but their lives are entwined even though they were raised separately.

Suffice to say, if you enjoy books that deal with this period of time and the struggles of the frontier, you will want to read this book.

Rating: 4 flowers


Born in 1976, NICOLE LEA HELGET grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, a childhood and place she drew on in the writing of her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways. She received her BA and an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Based on the novel’s first chapter, NPR’s Scott Simon awarded The Turtle Catcher the Tamarack Prize from Minnesota Monthly.
Nicole Helget shares her thoughts on writing and her influences, as well as beautiful photos of her family (including six children!) at her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.


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