Sunday, February 19, 2012

Early Review of May the Road Rise Up to Meet You: A Novel by Peter Troy

  • Title: May the Road Rise Up to Meet You: A Novel
  • Classification: Adult Fiction
  • Genre: Historical Fiction/Romance
  • Format: Hardcover, 400 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday (February 28, 2012)
  • ISBN-10:  0385534485
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385534482
  • Author's Blog:
  • Notes: I read the ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book. Some of the quotes may differ from the final version. Assume errors are mine. 

Famine...Slavery...A country on the cusp of change.....
Four remarkable individuals
Two couples 
One War that will change everything

     "How you know whachu doin Gertie?" you ask.
     "Been at dis fo' alooong time" she says, an starts hummin.
     "Naw," you say, "I you know whachu stitchin when it don' look like nothin but a buncha threads ain' got nothin t'do wit each otha? All I see is a whole buncha scraps... An justa whole messa knots an tangles all along th'back. It don' look like nothin from over here!"...
     "Cain't tell nothin 'bout nothin in dis worl' when all you seein is the knots an tangles an ever'thin' goin ever which way, lookin like a bucha mess... when th'mess only one parta it...Cain't see how all dese little bitsa thread be connected togetha, jus' like all th'bitsa yo' life gonna be, cause you ain' lookin at it the way it meant t'be seen"....
     An then she she turns'round that stitchin she been workin on so you can see it straight off. An it's pretty as  a picture ever was....
     "Dis here", she says, "what aaaall dat mess look like...when you gets t'seein it frontsways."

Life has a way of making you think it's just a mess with seemingly nothing having a purpose when you're living in the moment. Sometimes, however, when you look back, you see the pattern that was in the works. The 'stitchin' that held together what seemed likes scraps and bits with no reason or rhyme and realize the wonder of what was truly created. It may not be what you were expecting, it may not be what you wanted, but in the end it creates something better--and you realize there was a purpose. You just didn't realize it at the time. Only when you look at it from the right angle do you see the big picture and see it for what it is.

Mary Wilton is a slave living in the south. Her life is not her own because it's owned by her master. Life is not pretty and at times it has been harsh. Separated from her parents, Gertie is the one who cares and watches out for her. Her life is about to change for the better.

Ethan McOwen has lived through The Hunger (aka The Great Potato Famine). In an effort to survive his family moved one or more individuals at a time to what the hope to be a better, longer life in America. He's seen much death, the most tragic being of his best friend and sister, Aislinn. Originally from Ireland, he dreams of going to school and studying.

Micah (no last name) is a slave of the south. His father once made a deal with the master to buy his son's freedom. When the master died, so did the dream that Micah would one day be his own man. As his family was sold off and torn apart, he became the property of a man who saw slaves as little more than an animal. He'd entered into a nightmare of which there was little hope of escape. The life he had hoped once to lead seems to have slipped from his hands.

Marcella Arroyo was from a well off family who came to America from Spain. She's smart and talented, but because she's living in a male dominated world, her dreams and aspirations do not coincide with those of her parents. Always underestimated she's made an art of using that knowledge to her advantage whenever she can.

These four individuals will come through one of the toughest times the world and our country has ever faced, and we will watch how certain events and situations mold them. We'll see the front side of the embroidery (aka stitchin) as well as the invisible threads which stitched and held all those bits and pieces together so they could reach their full potential. The words stated at the beginning of the book by Suah, the black man who more than likely saved Ethan's life on the trip over from Ireland, will permeate through  story--"So why is it you do not die from de fever Etan? Perhaps God have somet'ing he wants yo to do...Whatever it is God has keep you alive for Etan, it is best dat you do it while you can."

I felt this was very intense and beautiful story. At times it was harsh, but that's life, and Troy attempted to capture facets of it in his book. Micah's story was most heart wrenching of the four. He went through so much. To be such a smart and talented individual and be treated no better than dog just shows how far the world has come. Stories like this one are often needed lest we forget how harsh the world can be.

Marcella is by far my favorite character. The way she acts the part of a dumb female just made me grin. In her introductory scene, she hustles three slave owners out of a lot of money in a poker game and does so with such finesse they don't even know they've been duped. Then she turns around and donates the money to a group which frees slaves. You've just got to love her. She's had a relatively easy life compared to the other three, but I like that she sees what's going on and attempts to change it in any way she can. Many would turn a blind eye and figure life is what it is.

Each character shows us a different aspect of life during a turbulent time in history. Ethan's view is from that of an immigrant's and soldier's perspective. Marcella's view is from that of a woman with connections and a little wealth. Micah and Mary give us a view from the eyes of  male and female slaves. We get a peek into all four individuals thoughts, fears, hopes and dreams. The story is brought full circle at the conclusion as the they all see what life has rendered them and come to terms with it all.

Overall, this one gets a 5 out of 5 roses. It took me on an emotional roller coaster ride and made me feel like I was experiencing it all first hand. An epic (as others have called it) debut novel by Peter Troy. I hope we'll be reading more of his books.

Notes to keep you in the know:

"May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind always be at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
and rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in the palm of His hand." (
An Irish Blessing)

"May the Road Rise up to Meet you. This is the opening line from one of Ireland’s most common blessings. This invitation to the rising road can be taken on many levels. It is really a blessing about the road that is your journey to the high road of meaning and purpose for your life. The rising up to meet you is the way in which the travelling this road of life need not be a struggle and that the resistance to change be met half way. May the road rise up to meet you is a blessing that recognises that the road of life is a road that rises up and widens into a high place where you connect the highest potential within you. What is the highest potential within you? Wisdom teachers who have travelled this road that rises up to meet you will tell you that it is the road of Love. This Irish blessing is inviting you to meet this rising road within you by being willing to serve Love’s purpose." (Information obtained from )

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