A sweeping, historical epic that explores the legacy of sin and the loss of innocence has been embraced by book clubs nationwide and promises to be one of the breakout books of the summer. Erika Robuck's debut novel, Receive Me Falling (Elysian Fields Press, July 2009), is one of the most literary and poignant additions to the historical fiction genre and maintains its appeal with modern day themes. Written with vivid description in both a past and present voice, Receive Me Falling is a powerful story about sin and redemption and the power that comes from finding one's way. After Meghan Owen loses both of her parents in a tragic accident, she begins researching her family's past and uncovers a secret history. She travels to the Caribbean island of Nevis and learns the story of a reluctant slave-owner's daughter who runs a plantation in an oppressive, male-dominated society. Catherine Dall is a modern-day heroine whose aspirations in medicine and the arts help her transcend the tyrannical world she inhabits. In the present day, Meg learns that her father's estate was built on stolen money and is under legal scrutiny and public disgrace. She is faced with having to sell the land and plantation home and deal with the betrayal that is at the heart of this tragedy-filled land. Told in alternating, past and present chapters, the historical drama of the Dall family unfolds while Meg discovers her own familial secrets. Catherine Dall, like Meg, is forced to choose between her lifestyle and the scandal of deserting her family. Hidden texts, scandalous diaries, antique paintings and confessional letters help Meghan Owen uncover the secrets of Eden and put the ghosts to rest.
Erika Robuck has written an extraordinary debut that will make readers mindful of the past and contemplate its impact on the future.
Meg's life had always been happy, well-adjusted and predictable. She was close to her parents and engaged to a man she loved. Her family was well off and Meg worked for a political figure. On the night of her engagement party all that changed - Meg's parents were killed in a tragic car accident. Unable to handle the sadness and pressures of day to day life Meg calls off her wedding and heads to Nevis where her family owns an old plantation named Eden. Shortly after her arrival in Nevis an already overwhelmed Meg learns that her father, whom she had always admired and respected, had stolen millions from his clients. She realizes she must sell many of their assets to correct the crime and pay back the families. Before selling, Meg wants to learn more about Eden and the ghost stories surrounding it. Who is playing the piano she hears coming from the plantation at night? Do former slaves really haunt Nevis?
Catherine Dall lived at Eden Plantation with her alcoholic father during the 1800's. She secretly took care of most plantation business, but was limited by being a woman. She knew that if something were to happen to her father the overseer would quickly take control of the plantation. She has seen his treatment of the slaves and his contempt of her and could not let that happen. Catherine was confused by her feelings about owning slaves. Her own mother died during childbirth and she was raised by "Mami" Esther. Esther had her daughter Leah within weeks of Catherine's birth and they were raised together and loved one another like sisters and best friends. Catherine could not believe the opinion of other slave owners who thought that the slaves were made for labor and enjoyed it or that they did not have feelings like the white property owners. When James and Albert Silwel, secret abolitionists determined to end the islands slavery, visited Nevis she grew even more confused and she found herself falling in love with James. Her father had other plans for her future that would benefit the plantation. Catherine also noticed that Leah had been distancing herself and wanted to fix whatever might have been wrong. Did she put a wedge between herself and her father by acting on her feelings toward slavery and James? Was she be able to repair her relationship with Leah or did a greater tragedy ensue?
Secrets unfold in this novel that change both Meghan and Catherine forever.
This novel seemed so interesting when I read the back cover and it did not disappoint. I finished this quickly just because I could not put the book down. The stories of Meg and Catherine are captivating. The chapters jumped from current day to the past, but were easy to follow. Each chapter revealed a little more about the past -either through living it with Catherine or through Meg's research. Eventually all of this came together to build a story of the past for Meg that helped lay to rest the pain that surrounded Eden for over a century. It also allowed Meg to have peace in her decision to sell the plantation and move forward in her life without her parents.
The characters are strong, young women put in positions of making decisions that effect their families greatly. Each woman had to take what she had always known and put it aside for a new truth. Both, were confronted with the lies of their fathers. Meg and Catherine are women of great character, but sometimes that is not enough for life to fall into place. Catherine's story is one of sadness and misfortune while Meg's is one of hope and recovery.
The historical aspects of the novel were very interesting. It touched on the realities of slavery and the struggles of those who wanted it to end. While reading I felt so moved by Catherine's torn loyalties. She had a great love for her father and her land, but she also felt a closeness to the slaves with whom she had developed relationships. She was unsure how to honor both of those emotions.
This novel comes together in the end in some quite surprising ways. I enjoyed where Ms. Robuck took me on the final pages and did not see it coming at all.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery, and books centered on character growth. This book had a little bit of everything, but never felt overdone.
Update: I just visited the author's website and wanted to share this list of book club questions. I read them and it made me think even more deeply about this novel and the symbolism that Ms. Robuck weaved throughout it. It made me want to redo my entire review. LOL