Book of the Little Axe

Atlantic Monthly. May 2020. 400p. ISBN 9780802129369. $26. F
From the farms of Trinidad to the forests of the American West, the tale of Rosa Rendón 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 Rendón 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.]

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