I was even prepared to cry. Quite a lot.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the depth, the intensity of the characters, and the extent to which this book covers new and interesting perspectives.
I read the blurb and expected a love story with extras. It’s way more than that. The back calls it:
A beautiful, heartfelt novel about transcending past troubles and learning to live with trust and hope.
And it absolutely is. Like the ocean is water, or chocolate is yum.
3 things that were super-dooper
- Diverse backgrounds and issues
- Great use of POV
- Poetry you really do want to leave around the place so people read it.
Diversity that’s real, not an afterthought
‘The Stars at Oktober Bend’ incorporates big issues like child soldiers, sexual assault, race and disability. And all brilliantly written, so that we feel and love the characters as they move towards healing and hope.
It added depth to the story. SO MUCH DEPTH. But it was done SO WELL. It’s not tacky, it’s not indulgent. Their pasts don’t confine the characters nor define their identities.
(If you’re looking for a stereotype go look elsewhere.)
In-their-heads unique voices
We get two points of view, both in first person, and both vastly different. At the back, Millard talks about initially writing this novel in the third person. I’m so glad she changed to first person (and that would not have been easy) because Alice and Manny are awesome, unique voices. I never got confused as to who was narrating.
Being in their heads, being them, deepens the impact of this book on the reader.
The level of effort Millard must have gone through to create these characters – the research, the cross-checking, the re-writing – is award-worthy. And, indeed, it’s received several accolades since its release in 2016.
I’ll let the book speak for itself:
my desire is
my soul is filled
but when I open myself to
set them free
on my lips.
(the first of Alice’s poems that Manny finds, p. 32)
I love books that combine poetry with prose. Alice even starts to think in poetic lines at times. In some ways it reminded me of reading ‘Sister Heart‘ by Sally Morgan, that understated beauty.
If you know me you know I love a book with hope, which this one is. I absolutely recommend a read. Do keep the tissues handy…
If you want to know more, there’s a great review of ‘The Stars at Oktober Bend’ here.