Sunday, December 30, 2018

Review: The Cursed Ground by T.R. Simon

Zora and Me, Book 2
by T.R. Simon
Candlewick Press
Middle Grade Historical
272 pages

A powerful fictionalized account of Zora Neale Hurston's childhood adventures explores the idea of collective memory and the lingering effects of slavery.

"History ain't in a book, especially when it comes to folks like us. History is in the lives we lived and the stories we tell each other about those lives."

When Zora Neale Hurston and her best friend, Carrie Brown, discover that the town mute can speak after all, they think they've uncovered a big secret. But Mr. Polk's silence is just one piece of a larger puzzle that stretches back half a century to the tragic story of an enslaved girl named Lucia. As Zora's curiosity leads a reluctant Carrie deeper into the mystery, the story unfolds through alternating narratives. Lucia's struggle for freedom resonates through the years, threatening the future of America's first incorporated black township -- the hometown of author Zora Neale Hurston (1891-1960). In a riveting coming-of-age tale, award-winning author T. R. Simon champions the strength of a people to stand up for justice.


Woven in simple yet intricate ways, this is a tale with impact and will stay with the reader long after the last page.

The author has set two stories next to each other and lets them weave back and forth. One concerns Zora and her best friend Carrie as they discover the town's mute can actually speak and try to discover the truth behind his hidden ability. The other takes places around 50 years before as Lucia, a slave girl, struggles to survive and maybe seek her own freedom. The stories flow in two different times, but each one is as grabbing as the other. While Zora and Carrie are a delight to accompany in their adventure and attempt to uncover the truth, Lucia's story pulls at the heart-strings. It's well crafted and draws in.

Each character is to love or to hate. While Zora is willful, full of spice and even humorous, Carrie sits more serious and makes a perfect counter weight. The two have a beautiful friendship, and it's impossible not to wish that both were real and the reader's best friends. Lucia, on the other side, hits the topic of slavery square on. Her life is harsh, and it's impossible not to feel for her and cheer for her even when she faces horrible odds. The other characters each win their own place, and the 'bad' ones definitely are begging to be disliked. It's a lovely cast with tons of heart.

While this is the second book in the series, it can be read as a stand alone (although after reading this, I am going to head back to the first as well). The author has done a fantastic job and bringing two tales together, while hitting the gut and leaving tons of food for thought. It's a series worth reading and one that belongs in the classroom.

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