Book Reviews

Book Review: Tapestry

Tapestry

By Beth Duke

338 pages

Published 2020

I often look for themes and plots that have something to do with what I’m currently writing – mainly to see how it’s been handled by other authors and, in some instances, to look for comps.  My current WIP is based on a surprise DNA test result, and Tapestry was one of the results of my search.  Plus it has a beautiful cover so I popped it into my Kindle library.

Here’s the premise:  Skye Willis is a 21-yr-old raised by her mother and grandmother in Eufaula, Alabama.  She waits tables in a Mexican restaurant, trying to figure out what to do with her life.  She’s always believed her father was killed in Afghanistan when she was a baby.  But when she convinces her grandmother to do a DNA test with her, the results prove that her mother hasn’t been honest about her parentage.  Her father was actually a fling her mother had with a man she thought was a construction worker.  In reality, her father (Pete) owns a pipeline company and – shocker – has never wanted to have children.  His wife (Kara) most certainly doesn’t want him to have children.  However, he’s forced to acknowledge Skye’s existence (although denies his involvement in her creation) when Skye’s grandmother stages a protest to get his attention.  The protest inadvertently leads to the downfall of Pete’s company as well as the grandmother’s demise.  The loss of her grandmother forces Skye to face her own future and decide what’s really important in her life.

In my last post, the rating went up as I read the book, ultimately ending at 3.5 stars (in case you’re wondering, I round up on Goodreads).  This one fell in the opposite camp.  I loved it at the beginning but my mental rating meter went down as I got further into the book.  Let’s take a look at why.

First, what I liked about the novel.  VOICE FOR DAYS.  Oh my goodness, from the first paragraph, the voice reached out, grabbed me, and never let up. Kara, the potentially evil stepmother, is summed up nicely in this characterization on how she views her husband:  “She had at least four hundred million reasons to love and support her husband.”  Granted, I couldn’t quite figure out why Pete never saw through her, but I suppose sex can addle your brain.  Regardless, she was wonderfully unlikable and that’s just a quick example of the complex characters that populated the novel.

The Grandmother, who prefers to be called Sparrow, was possibly one of the most unique characters I’ve read for a long time.  Based only on her skin tone and cheek bones (although backed up by her DNA test), she embraces her Creek Indian heritage in ways large and small, often with very funny results.  She lit up a scene whenever she was in it.

So, the deep POV, voice, and quirky/lovable characters kept me reading.  However, there were a few hinky spots in the book for me.

I mentioned the deep POV and it was great – until it head hopped.  This mostly happened in Kara’s sections and I’m not sure why, but it wandered a lot.  Then, in the last 25% of the book or so, the author just free-flowed practically from paragraph to paragraph.  I’m not biased against omni, but if you’re going to use it, please be consistent.  I hate being grounded in one character, then reading the next paragraph and thinking, “Wait a second, wasn’t I just in x character’s head?  What happened?”

The second small issue was the novel could have used another line edit.  Scene breaks were often missing, as were a few quotation marks.  And either the author had a tendency to insert odd hyphens or the book was formatted incorrectly, since words often became hyphenated mid-sentence.  

I came across a few other things that fall under the “I would have done this differently” category and didn’t see any of them mentioned in other Goodreads reviews.  (I don’t normally read them and didn’t read them all, but when I hit a sticking point, I am curious if other readers noted the same thing.)   However, I’m only going to mention one here since I don’t want to be a downer.

My problem revolved around Skye’s ancestry research.  Her DNA results came back with 2% African DNA and a good bit of Creek Indian DNA.  My assumption is that the African DNA was from her paternal side since her maternal grandmother was also Creek.  However, a few scenes later, she’s meeting with a researcher, learning about her several times removed grandmother who was a slave brought over in 1860.  Here’s the problem – if you don’t know who your father is, you can’t know who his parents, grand-parents, etc. are.  Meaning, she’d have to have linked up her real father before finding his ancestors and based on the story, she jumped from point A to point G.  Genealogical research just doesn’t work like that.  In her author’s note, Duke did comment that she took creative license on several parts of the story but when you’re talking about something like building a family tree, there are basic steps in the process you need to get right or it falls flat.

So, in a nutshell, Tapestry had a great small town setting, wonderful characters and voice that carried off the rough spots.  However, given the editing issues and questionable methods used for the crux of the story, my rating dropped to a low 3 stars.  

Until next time, thanks for visiting.

My rating system:

5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.

4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.

3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.

2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.


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