It begins with the sense that there is already disappointment or danger in our young narrator’s life. “In time, you became a man, and at once, I became this”
Divided into Books, and then brief paragraphs separated by roman numerals, it starts as if each paragraph is an afterthought with a lingering pause as if each thought is waking into a new moment after a restful sleep. Early on, the reader senses longing and regret from our narrator for a future that was lost, an experience that was forced, and a return that is half empty. Judith is silent, seen more as a nuisance by her mother and brother than a daughter or sister. Her role in the tiny community is isolated and she is a presence only, not a friend or participant after a 2 year absence.
You see, a fellow farmer and community deacon, after his wife left him, took two girls. After drinking his way to madness, setting his home on fire, one girl washed up the river dead, the other returned to her family missing not only two years of her life, her innocence, but also half of her tongue.
We start with a one-sided love story between neighbors who live in cabins and live the simple life. With families that came together on a boat, they have been intertwined for years in Roswell Station. Farming, living, and living in a safe, small community – one in which there needs to be a guard each night watching the ocean for ships and invaders (homelanders).
As the story continues, the second person narrative gets a bit old. Although I suppose if you were always spying on someone I would think of it as a “you did this” and then “you did that”. Each section? Chapter? …. the writing is broken up sometimes after only a few lines and sometimes after pages, but I don’t know my roman numerals much past 20 so I acknowledge the style as pauses in thought, or a dimming of lights to end one scene and then light up the stage again to a new thought, scene, chapter, or whatever I call it, it is lovely prose often sucking me in and keeping me reading longer than I should.
I felt like the plot ended with the resolution of the battle and the death of Judith’s abductor, which made me wonder where the story was headed. As Judith returns home with the injured men from her town, the community slowly recovers from the battle. She also finds a friend in an unlikely person, her own strength, and her own voice.
(and as a mom of two young children, I personally liked this expansion of my phrase “use your words” when my son was learning to talk. Maria to Judith, “Use language worthy of your mind. Use what you have. Stretch it forward” —- that’s going to become my new ‘use your words’)