Author: Susan Swanson
Title: Rebirth in Acadi
Genre: Contemporary / Literary / Historical Fiction
Rebirth in Acadi tells the story of two women—Louise Dennis, an African-American who leaves her racial identity and family connections behind in hopes of enjoying a prejudice-free life, and Margaret Bohr, an older woman whose husband’s job has taken her from everything familiar to a new home in the river town of Acadi.
Louise wants money, influence, and the lavish life she doubts she’ll find if who she is becomes obvious. With her naturally olive-toned skin, she feels she can pass for white, just as her influential antecedent, Albert Bancroft, once did himself in Acadi. Meanwhile, Margaret is looking for purpose and connection, and she finds it in the history of Albert’s wife, Charlotte, a woman who seemed to struggle with many of the emotions and pains Margaret faces daily.
As Margaret tries to settle into Acadi, learning more and more about Charlotte’s life, she unintentionally discovers more about Louise’s past, threatening the very future the young woman is trying to create and unveiling more than one “skeleton in the closets” of those living in Acadi.
This novel features a variety of characters who are all striving to put their respective pasts behind them, from Margaret and Louise to Margaret’s gambling husband and a Cuban-American immigrant who is working on the house the Bohrs are building in Acadi. This variety offers a compelling view on the gently-paced plot, urging readers to find out more as the respective characters live out their lives.
The pacing can be somewhat confusing at times, as the story jumps around between the narrative threads. Each chapter features one point of view, but sometimes, the narration backs up in order to “bring readers up to speed” on what’s happening, making it harder for readers to settle in and understand what is happening, especially at first, when so much is being established.
The novel is set in the early 1990s, but there can be times when the references to racism, Martin Luther King’s model, civil rights, and escaping from Cuba can make it seem like it’s unfolding decades earlier, to where more references to the time period and what’s going on in the larger world might help improve the historical fiction aspect of this story. There can be similar confusion about a few of the “skeletons in the closet” and what they truly mean to the characters in the story, though the novelist offers a beautifully complex view of relationships, motives, and what truly matters.
The novel’s description make the town of Acadi quite clear, and the harrowing details of what Margaret experiences as she fights for the house she’s paying for lend vibrant realism to the story, helping readers picture the setting and frustrations that face the main characters and supporting cast.
Offering readers a unique story that brings a wide variety of characters and perspectives together, this novel will likely appeal most to readers of women’s fiction and similar, relationship-driven stories. The themes of past and future, baggage and dreams play largely into this book, making it a perfect fit for those who enjoy an exploration on life and how human beings handle the troubles they face, given to them by fate, family, or fortune.
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