Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Book Review -- Tallgrass

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas

My rating:  2 of 5 stars

Rennie’s home town of Ellis, Colorado is changed overnight when the government decides to build and internment camp for Japanese-Americans evacuees after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Determined to do what is right, in spite of what many of their fellow neighbors believe, Rennie and her family employee several of the boys to help work their beet crop and a young woman to help with chores around the house. After a neighbor is found murdered, many of the local residents are convinced that the perpetrator is an evacuee – but with little or no proof. With tension running high in town and families being torn apart by war, Rennie often wonders if life in Ellis will ever be the same.

Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas started out like the perfect coming of age tale – Rennie (at 13) had a clear, true voice of an adolescent stuck between childhood and adulthood. Her perspective on the internment camp and the refugees was innocent but with the knowledge that, things could get worse, especially if local boys started dying while fighting the Japanese overseas, including her brother.

This book never got off the ground for me. What seemed like an interesting premise – never developed. The author, in her foreword, admits that as a non-Japanese, it would have been presumptuous of her to write from the Japanese point of view (take that Kathryn Stockett!). But honestly, that’s the story I would have preferred to read. It would have been far more interesting to read about what went on in the internment camp then what happened on the farm. Also, there were several story lines; it was as if the author couldn’t decide what type of novel to write: historical fiction, murder mystery, quilting-genre fiction, or coming of age novel.

And with the exception of Rennie and her Dad, nearly all the characters and their dialogue were flat. I never felt one single emotion that that author was trying to evoke from the page. In one scene, the Strouds learn the fate of their son, Buddy. In what should have been a gut wrenching reaction from the reader, just died on the page.

Also, and this is silly and minor – but Rennie’s older sister’s name is: Marthalice. Now – how did you read that? If you were like me, for the first dozen pages I read it: Martha Lice – and I thought – who on earth would use a name like that for a character? Because we’ve had lice in our family and they are evil! It didn’t occur to me until later that her name was: Martha Alice. Doh?! But it bugged me throughout the book.

So, this didn’t do anything for me. I still have Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet on my bookshelf as a contribution to Japanese Internment Camp historical fiction – I hope it is more successful.

Book source: borrowed from a friend


Jeanette said...

This book fell very flat for me.
I have read Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet and while it has it flaws as well, it was better than this. Much better.

alisonwonderland said...

The summary of Tallgrass reminds me of The Magic of Ordinary Days, which I read several years ago. I really liked The Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. I think my favorite Japanese internment camp novel is Snow Falling on Cedars. I also liked When the Emperor Was Divine.