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Book of the Little Axe
Cover of Book of the Little Axe
Book of the Little Axe
Ambitious and masterfully-wrought, Lauren Francis-Sharma's Book of the Little Axe is an incredible journey, spanning decades and oceans from Trinidad to the American West during the tumultuous days of...
Ambitious and masterfully-wrought, Lauren Francis-Sharma's Book of the Little Axe is an incredible journey, spanning decades and oceans from Trinidad to the American West during the tumultuous days of...
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  • Ambitious and masterfully-wrought, Lauren Francis-Sharma's Book of the Little Axe is an incredible journey, spanning decades and oceans from Trinidad to the American West during the tumultuous days of warring colonial powers and westward expansion.

    In Trinidad, in 1796, teenage Rosa Rendón quietly but purposefully rebels against typical female roles and behavior. Bright, competitive, and opinionated, Rosa sees no reason she should learn to cook and keep house—it is obvious her talents lie in running the farm she expects to be her birthright, despite her two older siblings. But as her homeland goes from Spanish to British rule, it becomes increasingly unclear whether its free black property owners—Rosa's family among them—will be allowed to keep their assets, their land, and ultimately, their freedom.

    By 1830, Rosa is living among the Crow Nation in Bighorn, Wyoming with her husband, Edward Rose and family. Her son Victor has reached the age where he should seek his vision and become a man. But his path is blocked by secrets Rosa has kept hidden from him. So Rosa sets out to take him on a journey to where his story began and, in turn, retraces her own roots, those of a girl who forged her own way from the middle of the ocean to the grassy hills of a far-away land.

About the Author-

  • Lauren Francis-Sharma is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel 'Til The Well Runs Dry. She resides near Washington, DC with her husband and two children and is the proprietor of the DC Writers' Room and the assistant director of the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2020
    Another complex, unsung strand in the American story emerges in this historical epic set in two hostile environments near the hinge of the 18th and 19th centuries. It is the mid-1790s, and while most of the world is undergoing convulsive transition, the Rend�n family leads a relatively quiet existence on the island of Trinidad, where Demas, the family patriarch, owns and operates a farm and blacksmithing business. But life for free and propertied black people like the Rend�ns is about to undergo major changes as Trinidad's rule moves from Spanish to English. Rosa, Demas' headstrong, fiercely intelligent daughter, simmers with restless energy and a yearning for freedom that can't be contained by her family's traditional expectations or by the condescension, at best, from the wealthy white colonists. The story of Rosa's coming-of-age is interwoven with another narrative, set in the early 1830s, in which Rosa, now living in the northwestern United States and married to a Crow chief, is trying to help her son, Victor, recognize his potential as a man. How Rosa got from the Caribbean to the territorial badlands of a new American nation makes up the core of this ambitious work along with the personal "memberings" of Creadon Rampley, a drifter with an obscure past who's drawn to Trinidad in 1810 by the promise of gold. Francis-Sharma ('Til the Well Runs Dry, 2014) forges a persuasively researched account so richly evocative of a relatively obscure corner of history as to make it seem almost phantasmagorical. Still, as enchanting as Francis-Sharma's writing can be, especially in its re-creations of Trinidad and the characterizations of Rosa and her family, the book occasionally hits patches when too many complications and details clog its forward momentum. Sometimes you get impatient for the story to hurry back northward to the frisky, jaunty pace of Rosa and Victor's harrowing adventures. Some illuminating history and vivid set pieces emerge from a frustratingly cluttered narrative.

    COPYRIGHT(2020) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 30, 2020
    Francis-Sharma (’Til the Well Runs Dry) delivers a satisfying and perceptive transnational family saga. In 1830 Montana, Victor Rose struggles to complete an Apsaalooke vision quest, while his best friend, Like-Wind, passes through their tribe’s initiation rite. Victor and his mother, Rosa Rendon, flee after Victor witnesses the drowning death of a young woman who’d spurned him for Like-Wind, to avoid potential suspicion. While traveling, Victor discovers the journal of Creadon Rampley, a hardworking young wanderer from the States seeking gold in Trinidad, in Rosa’s belongings. Here, the narrative flashes back to Rosa’s childhood in Trinidad as the daughter of a prosperous free black farmer and blacksmith. When the British seize control of the colony and attempt to edge out all non-European landowners, Rosa’s father takes desperate measures to keep the land, eventually settling on marrying Rosa’s sister Eve to Creadon. Back on the trail, Victor and Rosa run into trouble on their way to Kullyspell territory. Like-Wind, having reluctantly led two Frenchmen to Victor and Rosa, is killed by one of the Frenchmen during a fight with them as Victor defends Rosa from their sexual assault. Creadon’s writings and Rosa’s memories disclose a cascade of family secrets that explains how Rose and Creadon ended up in North America. In this masterly epic, the pleasure lies in piecing everything together. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Assoc.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 1, 2020

    From the farms of Trinidad to the forests of the American West, the tale of Rosa Rend�n is hard yet engrossing. Dark like her father, Demas, a free black man in that late 18th-century Spanish colony, Rosa was never embraced by her mother and siblings, nor did she accept the typically female role proposed for her. As her story comes out, interwoven with her later, and equally difficult, life in what is now Montana, the conflicts between white and black, man and woman, intensify. Several acts of violence culminate in Demas Rend�n losing his farm and house, and Rosa fleeing the island for her life. She throws in her lot with the mysterious woodsman Creadon Rampley but later leaves him to become a wife to a Crow chief. Her son comes to struggle in the same way his mother did. The various strands of the story come together to illuminate how power and race can warp a life. VERDICT A sad, compelling novel about a woman of color who fights against society's expectation, Francis-Sharma's novel (after 'Til the Well Runs Dry) is an excellent choice for book groups. [See Prepub Alert, 12/9/19.]--W. Keith McCoy, Edison, NJ

    Copyright 2020 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Booklist

    Starred review from April 15, 2020
    Rosa Rendon never quite fit her proscribed place in 1790s Trinidad. Her passion for horses and the land ran counter to the expectation that young women would be focused on marriage and motherhood. Among free Black property owners, her family was comfortably set until Spanish rule gave way to British rule, which brought much harsher views of race and social station. What follows is a social upheaval so severe that by 1830, Rosa is living among the Crow Nation of Montana, married to a chief, and raising mixed-race children. Her old life is buried in the past, until her son, Victor, comes of age and cannot quite find his footing in the tribe. His fate resonates with Rosa. Upheaval in the tribe then forces Rose and Victor to undertake a journey that will unearth her secrets and the truth about how she was transplanted from the Caribbean to North America's Western plains. Francis-Sharma, author of the critically acclaimed Til the Well Runs Dry (2014), offers fascinating characters across the broad sweep of the American continent at a time of great tumult, warring colonial powers, the spread of slavery, and expansion West. This is a compelling saga of family bonds, ambitions, and desires, all subject to the vagaries of powerful historical forces.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2020, American Library Association.)

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