I was recently contacted by a publisher to see if I would read and review a copy of “Sweet Song” by Terry Persun. I enjoy historical fiction of this time period (1870’s), so I said yes.
In “Sweet Song”, Leon, the mixed-race son of a landowner and his black servant, seeks to find (and create) his identity. A violent interaction causes him to run away from his home and he takes this opportunity to recreate himself. Leon, who looks and passes for white, decides to define himself as white, and this leads him to explore racism and views on society from a different perspective than he had before (when he had lived with his mother and black father in the tenant’s cabins on the property). Leon has many struggles and several things he is running from. His story is a journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance.
To be honest, I really wanted to like this book, but I found it slow-moving; and Leon began to annoy me. I wanted to root for him, but instead I felt like he was passive and weak and things just happened to him (until the end – which I liked). I have to say there were some really disturbing things in this book (SPOILER ALERT!) which I’m still not sure why they were there. Leon is in a sexual relationship with his half-sister, which he is seduced into by her. Also Leon suffers for years as a child, being physically and sexually abused by his mother. I racked my brain and while I could say that the relationship with his sister would be the catalyst for him running away (but did it have to be his sister??), I found no literary reason for this horrible experience with his mother. I would have thought this could be a good YA book with good discussions on identity development and race, but I can’t recommend it for the younger set due to the (disturbing) sexual content.
Thank you, Emily from Booktrope, for the chance to review!
Here is some information sent to me about Mr. Persun:
Terry Persun writes in many genres, including historical fiction, mainstream, literary, and science fiction / fantasy. His novel, Cathedral of Dreams is a ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year finalist in the Science Fiction category. His novel Sweet Song received a Silver IPPY Award last summer. His latest novel is, Doublesight, the first book in an epic fantasy series. Find Terry online at TerryPersun.com and @tpersun.