Distant Dreams: Judith Pella and Tracie Peterson



Distant Dreams is a pre civil-war story, set in the times of Andrew Jackson’s presidency.  The story is about Carolina, a fifteen-year-old girl with an unladylike interest in railroads and her unrequited love for James, her sister’s betrothed, who shares the same passion.  Despite the veneer of a novel about a woman’s ambitions in an era when such a thing was shunned, the novel is really about the romance between James and Carolina that follows the beaten path of romantic novels.  Misunderstandings, over reactions, vile business man dad with a sinister agenda, a cunning, scheming sister who wants her way always.  A dreadful read indeed.

Leave it alone.




The book selects ten lesser known historical events that had a profound impact on America.  Massacre at Mystic, California gold rush, the civil war battle in Antietam, Manhattan project, and Elvis Presley phenomenon are some of the events that are covered.  The significance of the events on the course of history made for fascinating reading.  The linkage of the events with their impact on American way of life is brought out well and in an engaging way.


News of the World: Paulette Jiles


Set in the period just after the civil war, ‘News of the World’ is a sweet story of an old man and a young girl bonding in strange circumstances.  Johanna had been kidnapped by Indians as a child, and after years with them, she is being returned to her relatives.  Captain Kidd, the old gentleman, who makes his living reading news of the world in small towns, is tasked with taking her to her relatives.  Thus begins an unusual journey, where the girl, with no English, and Indian in her ways, and the old man forge a bond that lasts a life time. Jiles does a good job capturing the tumultuous tension of the period, where everything was unsettled and new norms were being put in place (she ignores the race aspect completely though).  A little verbose at times with the setting, but a smooth read overall.


Lincoln in the Bardo: George Saunders

‘Lincoln in the Bardo’ is experimental, magic-realism writing.  Willy Lincoln, Abe Lincoln’s son is dead, at a time when civil war has just started causing major causalities.  Willy Lincoln makes it to the other world, the world between here and the ultimate there, populated by people with still-unfinished business in this world.  It is the multiple stories of those people that are interesting – as their stories encompass civil rights and the race divide, the same sex love, and many other issues of that time and today.  The writing is superb, the stories engrossing, if too many.  It is a little difficult to understand at the beginning , but the story unfolds slowly, draws you in and holds you.