If you’re a writer, you’ve had to endure reviews. Sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised by a five-star only to be confused by a comment like “It’s okay if you don’t have anything else to read.” Sometimes you’re saddened by a one-star that strangely says something like “It’s okay if you don’t have anything else to read.” Huh? Usually reviews are flat comments like “I liked it,” or “I didn’t like it,” and nothing more. But, there are the occasional reviews that show the reader understood what the writer was trying to say. No matter the rating; the reviewer “got” it!
I wrote a story based in Mississippi during the Civil War called Okatibbee Creek. It was about Mary Ann (my third great grandmother) and how she grew up with fourteen siblings. Most of those siblings had eight/ten/twelve children of their own, so it was a HUGE family. By the middle of the book, the Civil War and typhoid fever decimated them, killing a majority of her family members in just one year. The family went from nearly 100 members to a scant handful. Mary Ann ended up without her parents or husband, taking in her orphaned nieces and nephews with no means of supporting them, trying to survive alone during the hell of war. She had never been alone before, seriously ALONE. I wanted the reader to have a sense of where she came from and what the war and disease had done to her, so they could feel her isolation, her panic, her sadness. Most of the poor reviews complain that there are too many family members, too many names. They don’t get it.
Here’s a review from someone who “got” it…
“This book is fascinating. For those of you that haven’t, it’s a glimpse into the mystery and fascination of finding your roots and imagining the life of your ancestors. I couldn’t help but wonder how a long dead relative felt when 3 of her 7 children died on the trail west. Or the first grandchild perishing as a baby along the Columbia River in Oregon. What kept these pioneers feeling that the trek was worth the pain? Yes, there are a lot of names. Start a family tree and enjoy the story. It’s just what I would have wanted to write about my family.”
Did you include a family tree in the book? I love having them for reference when I get lost among all the names in historical novels. A good example of what I am talking about is in the book The Sweeter the Juice by Shirlee Taylor Haizlip. The first two pages before the book starts contain a family tree graphic.
You know, Deborah, it did occur to me to do so, but there are just too many names. It was a ginormous family. It would probably help those who would like to keep track. Maybe I’ll see if I can create one and post it on the book’s page up top here.
Your comments on reviews are very true. I received a 2-star for one of my books with the comment, “Great book; loved reading it.” Huh?
Sometimes I think people don’t really understand the whole star-rating thing. LOL.