Jenford: A Short History of Upland, by Hendrick E. Sadi
Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Book Source: Courtesy of Author
He had seen too much killing and destruction not to want to affirm the living and now wanted to farm his way back to life.This is one of the more difficult reviews I have had to write. How does one approach a novel that, at it's core, is a beautiful story idea and solid foundation, but the mechanicals of the actual writing are hampering the telling of that story?
Jenford: A Short History of Upland
The premise is solid: a grown man returns to his childhood home in a Northeastern farming community for a routine visit and pays a visit to one of their neighbors, an elderly man whose family had been farming their land since the Civil War. A picture on the wall sparks an interest in the history of the area and the elderly neighbor relates his poignant family history. As one of the original families to settle the area, their history is the town's history and parallels such as these are drawn throughout the book.
The telling of this insightful story, however, gets lost in the presentation. There is a overuse of ellipses in the dialogue, which is a bit distracting and confusion often arises over inconsistencies with the characters. For example,
And that was Clayborn's sermon to his oldest son that day Isak went to another side of the field with his two brothers, mumbling about it to them.
"I've heard enough from him and that book ... Isn't there another book he can get his hands on besides the black one he always wants to preach to us from?"
"Why don't we go and ask mother?" Joseph said, innocently enough.
"Mother? ... Why? ... Where would she get one for him?" Clarence asked, a bit dumbfounded by his brother's suggestion, looking at the grin that had come to Isak's face then.
from Jenford: A Novel of Upland
To be fair, one has to understand that the author, Henrik E. Sadi, is not a native English speaker, being born in Norway and growing up in the Middle and Far East. I simply cannot imagine the inherent difficulties in writing a novel in another language, so I feel compelled to applaud anyone who would try.
But again, aside from the technical portion of the writing, I cannot emphasize enough the heartfelt premise of the story. To seek out our own history and where we come from is a inherent human desire (okay, salmon have it too, but don't get picky with me here) and Mr. Sadi has struck a chord in this novel.
Our own stories, like the ones in Jenford, are filled with sadness and disappointment. Mr. Sadi does a commendable job of portraying this sadness without dragging the story into desolation. And while you shouldn't expect a happy ending, you can expect a satisfying one.
Title: Jenford: A Short History of Upland
Author: Hendrik E. Sadi
ISBN: 978-0-595-48351 (pbk)
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc.