Title: A Place Called the Way
Author: Corrine Ardoin
Genre: Historical Fiction
A Place Called the Way is the third installment in Corrine Ardoin’s Pine Valley series and delves deeper into the story of the people that settled in the fictional town of Pine Valley. It depicts the challenges of living and growing up in rural America in the 1950s, as the characters navigate around issues of class, race, and gender in order to establish a life for themselves and their families, one that is filled with love, meaning, and purpose.
It is not overstating it to say that the scope of this book is massive. It is perhaps necessary to read the first two books in the series to fully appreciate the extent of the story being told here. In addition, whether by accident or design, the use of flashbacks and a non-linear timeline, alongside multiple character points of view, added an extra layer of complexity to the plotting which subsequently had a knock-on effect on pacing and characterization.
The interruptions to the present timeline in order to explain something that happened in the past sometimes affected the forward momentum of the narrative. The shift of perspective from one character to another in a seemingly random fashion resulted in some loss of distinction between character voices, something that is so fundamental in character-driven books like these where individual arcs and journeys are essential threads to the wider story tapestry that the author is trying to weave.
Fortunately, the story was strong enough to carry the weight of any misstep. A Place Called the Way is historical fiction steeped in realism, brimming with easily recognizable issues and themes relevant to the reader’s of today. Human follies, suffering, and transformation are timeless. Regardless of period, setting, or geography, tales of love, lust, betrayal, and the limitless capacity one person has to hurt another resonates with all of us.
For example, the book often comes back to the exploration of what it means to be a woman living in a society whose views on gender roles are so limiting and restrictive. Conversely, there is also an equal exploration of the effects of certain types of masculinity and how it can have far-reaching effects all the way up to maturity and adulthood. Some of the scenes are graphic and harrowing, and it is worth noting that some readers might prefer a trigger warning.
However, in not shying away from discussing difficult subjects such as race, sexuality, gender, and self-harm, the book opens the way for healthy discussion and discourse. Rather than being gratuitous and exploitative, the powerfully emotive chapters of the last part of the book are fundamental to reaching the conclusion of this evocative story.
At its core, A Place Called the Way is a multi-generational study and examination of humanity in all its glory and frailty, bringing to mind classics like The Joy Luck Club and One Hundred Years of Solitude. With the stroke of a pen, the author exposes the murkiness behind the façade we present to the world and the struggles underneath the surface that threatens to pull us under. Riveting, with a raw quality that is deeply affecting, it will surely have readers rapidly turning pages to find out what happens next.
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