The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

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Title: The Story Keeper

Author: Lisa Wingate

Published By: Tyndale House Publishers (2014)

Synopsis: When successful New York editor Jen Gibbs discovers a decaying slush-pile manuscript on her desk, she has no idea that the story of Sarra, a young mixed-race woman trapped in Appalachia at the turn of the twentieth century, will both take her on a journey and change her forever. Happy with her life in the city, and at the top of her career with a new job at Vida House Publishing, Jen has left her Appalachian past and twisted family ties far behind. But the search for the rest of the manuscript, and Jen’s suspicions about the identity of its unnamed author, will draw her into a mystery that leads back to the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains . . . and quite possibly through the doors she thought she had closed forever. (Taken from Goodreads)

Review:

I was so impressed by this book. I was drawn in from the first chapter. A book about an editor and the publishing world? I’m in! The author’s talent is so admirable. She effortlessly weaves together so many plot strands, characters, themes, and it works. It was easy reading, while still fun.

I LOVED the aspect of the two separate stories intertwining together—our main character, Jen, finds a manuscript of a story, and we get to read the manuscript in the book as well as Jen’s story. I found it incredibly impressive how the author managed to pull off both stories and also intertwine them. A lot of work and thought went into this story, and it paid off.

I really liked how the author used real locations and places, real facts and real history—it made reading the book that much more interesting. The characters were vivid and alive. The parts about Lane’s Hill were eye opening and thematically, done excellently. I LOVED the sneaky Christian themes that snuck in and yet never took over. I was fascinated by Jen’s family life and the twisted version of Christianity contrasted with the world and the questions presented—“Why did [Lane’s Hill] not line up with the Bible when I read it?”

Sarra and Rand’s story, the story in the manuscript Jen finds, was a little harder to keep track of. The characters were just as alive, and the historical context was strikingly accurate and the story of Melungeons absolutely fascinated me—but some of the action was a little confusing. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was going on all the time. Overall it did not lessen my appreciation for the story, but I did have to flip back several times to catch up.

Negative Content/Notes:

Toward the beginning of the story, Jen asserts that she doesn’t date because she doesn’t want to be accused of “sleeping her way to the top” in the industry. I was fine with the line but just figured I should just mention it for the sake of younger readers here, though even then I don’t think it’s a problem. Regardless, I’d recommend this for older readers, just because of the depth.

Overall: This is an eye-opening tale of history, family and loyalty, and it blew me away. I loved reading about the publishing world and I loved the thematics of the importance of stories. I found the story talentedly told and the characters real and living. It was both humorous and serious, delicate yet raw. Highly recommended.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

Recommended to: Ages 14 & up

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