Saturday, March 10, 2012

Under the Same Sky by Genevieve Graham

Book Description:

The year is 1746. A young woman from South Carolina and a Scottish Highlander share an intimacy and devotion beyond their understanding. They have had visions of each other their entire lives. And yet they have never met.
Now, with their lives torn asunder, Maggie Johnson and Andrew MacDonnell's quest to find each other is guided only by their dreams—and by the belief in the true love they share.

On the Carolina frontier Maggie Johnson’s family struggles to survive. Maggie’s gift of “the sight” and her visions show her a presence she calls Wolf. She watches him grow from a boy her age to a man even as she goes from child to woman.

Andrew MacDonald has always wondered about the girl he sees in his dreams. He is able to talk to her through their thoughts and vows that even if he must cross an ocean he will find her. They are thrust into different situations: Andrew fights for the doomed Jacobite cause and Maggie is captured by slavers, then rescued and brought into a kind, loving Native American tribe. They each believe in destiny and the power of the love they have shared forever.

Under the Same Sky is an emotionally memorable and heartrending story that covers a few different genres, so it's hard for me to pinpoint how to label it.  I wouldn't call it a romance novel, but there is a central love story integral to the plot.  I'd say it's similar to historical fiction only with a supernatural element to it.  The telepathic connection between the hero and heroine, Andrew and Maggie spans across the Atlantic Ocean.  Andrew and Maggie live on different continents, which keep them apart for most of the book until they finally come face to face with one another at the end.  As you can imagine, this is the driving force behind the story that keeps the reader interested - how and when are they finally going to meet?  Until that penultimate moment, the plot line revolves around each of them in their own separate lives and how they must deal with the injustices and brutality of their two very different worlds.  Yet they are survivors, managing to overcome what life hits them with.  The one constant that helps them cope and overcome life’s adversity is the mysterious mental communication between them.

Maggie in South Carolina and Andrew in Scotland have a relationship where they are connected in each other's thoughts since childhood.  They’ve grown up inside the other's head as long as they can remember, usually during dreams.  Yet, they know virtually nothing about the other until they are adults and tragedy strikes.  Maggie must deal with rape and survival.  She is eventually rescued by the Cherokee Indians.  Andrew, in Scotland deals with the battle of Culloden and its aftermath.  He decides to find Maggie in South Carolina and makes his way there to find her.  Along the way he becomes friends with various people who join him in his journey to America.  By the way, how did Andrew manage to travel all around Scotland without being arrested?  No one wore kilts after Culloden, especially in a busy seaport, unless you wanted to be arrested on the spot.

I liked the connection theory between her hero and heroine and how they can hear each other's thoughts from across the sea. Yet, it was a foregone conclusion they would hook up eventually, so the element of surprise and suspense was reduced, thus making the story a bit too placid for my tastes.  When they finally do meet face to face it was a bit anticlimactic, compared to their previous unexplainable “meeting” that happens when Andrew touches some standing stones while still in Scotland.  I did scratch my head concerning this part.

Inspired by Diana Gabaldon's Outlander books, the author wrote her own while waiting for the next book in Gabaldon's series to come out.  I can relate to that. *grin*  For a first time writer, I must give her credit, it was a brilliant story and the writing mechanics were nearly faultless, but it wasn't perfect.  The first part of the book was great, it had lots of drama and it was exciting, albeit sad.  What happened to her sister Rose was terrible.  Yet, as awful as it was, this part of the book was the most compelling.  Describing what happened to Maggie and her family was the best part of the whole story, though it may be hard to stomach for many. The whole capture and rape was very well written and exciting, but it really slowed down after the rescue.

The second half of the book seemed to lose its momentum and plodded along until finally Maggie and Andrew find each other.  A problem that came up occasionally was that the book dragged on or went off on tangents involving minor characters, veering away from the main focus of Andrew and Maggie.  I kept wondering, is this someone that is going to be a major character later on?  Then it turns out that, no they aren't.  I couldn't help being a little annoyed or let down at this realization.  If the book had been longer, a large tome, then yes I can see expanding on these secondary characters, but with a 300+ page book, it took away from the main focus.  Another issue I had was that some parts of the book were conveniently glossed over.  In the second part of the book when Maggie is accused of murder, her predicament is cleared up much too easily.  Yes, she spends time in jail, yet we don't see how it's all cleared up!  We only hear about it secondhand.  We never find out what happens and how Iain (one of Andrew's friends) cleared it all up. What happened to the corrupt judge?  What happened to Joe?  Her arrest and its resolution would have been much more dramatic if the Captain (the villain in the story) had been developed more.

Overall, this was a good read, but my main problem with this book is the fact that Andrew and Maggie remain apart through most of it. My favorite part was their mystical experience through the standing stones, although it was such a retread of Gabaldon’s time travel theory it took away from the moment.  I realize the buzzing and voices heard by Andrew at the time was an homage to Outlander, but this momentous scene could have been more original.  When they finally meet in America, due to their previous connection at the stones, it seemed almost inconsequential.  This is a great first effort by the author, despite some unevenness. Whereas the first part of the book was full of action, often tragic, the second half of the book lost that intensity.  I am looking forward to reading her next book though!


*There is no sex in this story, by the way, which would make this book very appealing in the YA market,

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