Author: Wayne Clark
Type of book: 1748-1755, New York, kidnapping, France, surviving, resourcefulness, revenge, payback, trading, indentured servitude, land schemes, business, merchants
Year it was published: 2017
Beating the Odds in Colonial New York
• 2017 Book Excellence Awards Finalist for Fiction
• 2017 Winner 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading
Kidnapped in France and brought to America as an indentured servant, a young woman takes on the brutal merchant king of New York’s East River waterfront…
Illness suddenly deprives 17-year-old Sarah Da Silva and her older brother Jacob of a mother. Before Sarah has come to terms with that loss, her merchant father grows frail and increasingly desperate in the face of impending bankruptcy. On the rainy night their father scours the docks of Bordeaux, France, to make his final bid to save his family, his children are kidnapped and forced onto a ship bound for New York City where they’ll be separated and sold to the highest bidder as indentured labor.
Purchased by a grotesque merchant whose wealth, backed by a team of henchmen, allows him to dominate the chaotic East River docks, Sarah strikes back the only way she can. Vowing to never allow him to put his hands on her again, she presses a knife to his fat neck. She demands her freedom, a roof over her head and the means to start a business. Her leverage? Knowledge obtained on the voyage that would bring the big man to his knees forever. He yields to her demands but privately swears to become her worst nightmare.
Main characters include Sarah and Jacob as well as their associated such as Noah, and Michel. Sarah is Jacob's younger sister who is very business oriented and who desires to become a merchant. She is extremely resourceful and often seems to be the boss rather than her brother. She has little to no ties to her Jewish faith and it seems that in almost everything but human emotions she is gifted. Jacob is gifted as an engraver and he seems to be second best when compared with Sarah, however he seems to be content in that role. He is extremely loyal and dedicated to Sarah and will do whatever he can for her. Noah is their friend who is a free African and who has his own reasons and secrets in doing what he does. Michel is a French merchant as well as someone who loves Sarah and will do what he can in helping her out.
Be careful whom you upset
The story is in third person narrative from what seems to be everyone's point of view, although the primary character is Sarah. I appreciated that Sarah is drawn as a strong character who has strong business acumen and is determined to become a merchant. The pacing of the story doesn't really match what I was promised, and for some odd reason I had trouble believing Noah's friendship with da Silva siblings. I also had trouble getting emotionally invested with the characters. I did love some
of the details that the author provided about how indentured servitude worked and the perils that indentured servants faced.
About the Author
Award-winning author Wayne Clark was born in 1946 in Ottawa, Ont., but has called Montreal home since 1968. Woven through that time frame in no particular order have been interludes in Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, Germany, Holland and Mexico.
By far the biggest slice in a pie chart of his career would be labelled journalism, including newspapers and magazines, as a reporter, editor and freelance writer. The other, smaller slices of the pie would also represent words in one form or another, in advertising as a copywriter and as a freelance translator. However, unquantifiable in a pie chart would be the slivers and shreds of time stolen over the years to write fiction.
For more information, please visit Wayne Clark’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.
I hate being in minority when it comes to disliking books, but it seems that is the case for this book. On the surface the book promised perfect ingredients of intrigue, colonial history, and a strong female character, which is what we get. What I didn't count on are the lack of secondary ingredients such as pacing not matching the blurb nor the cover, lack of details when it comes to physical world which removed me a lot from the story nor the proper suspense. The blurb and the cover caused me to think that this is a fast paced story of maneuvering as well as cat and mouse between the figurative David and Goliath. What it seemed to be, rather, is slow paced which is not a bad thing, but it also lacked in description of the world that Sarah and her allies inhabit. What also bugged me a lot is that there is mention that Sarah and her brother Jacob are Sephardic Jews, but they are Sephardic Jews who have no knowledge of Ladino, a dialect that Sephardic Jews speak. Also as well, there is mention of guillotine at one time, but I believe that guillotine came into prominence during French Revolution which was twenty years after the story was set. I understand that the author was careful in trying to recreate the physical world that the characters inhabited, but I feel that when it comes to small details, the author wasn't as careful as I wished.
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(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)