Apr 27, 2009

Follow Me by Joanna Scott

Welcome to the April Hachette Group Early Bird Blog Tour for Joanna Scott's Follow Me.

About the Book (From Hachette Website):

On a summer day in 1946 Sally Werner, the precocious young daughter of hardscrabble Pennsylvania farmers, secretly accepts her cousin's invitation to ride his new motorcycle. Like so much of what follows in Sally's life, it's an impulsive decision with dramatic and far-reaching consequences. Soon she abandons her home to begin a daring journey of self-creation, the truth of which she entrusts only with her granddaughter and namesake, six decades later. But when young Sally's father--a man she has never known--enters her life and offers another story altogether, she must uncover the truth of her grandmother's secret history.

At more than 400 pages, Joanna Scott's Follow Me is a very detailed account of Sally Werner's background as told by her granddaughter, Sally. Scott has a gift for detail, which can become a drawback when Sally Werner is wandering in the woods after leaving her baby with her parents. The twists and turns Sally's life takes are driven by her fear and her desire to fit in without revealing her true self in each new location, but often the poetic prose gets in the way. It isn't until page 53 that readers discover Sally has red hair, and readers find this out at the moment when Sally is getting her hair dyed blond. Scott's writing vacillates from run-on sentences to short fragments, both of which readers may find slow down the plot.

"Running, Running, Running up the jagged slope behind the rows of new corn, over the stone wall, through the woods and meadows. Sting of nettles. Gray sky of dawn. Bark of a startled deer." (Page 15)


In some cases, the narrative opts for telling the reader what's going on, rather than showing the action and development through character interaction. Moreover, detailed backgrounds of side characters like Gladdy Toffit are asides that do not propel the plot or character development forward.

"Other days she'd [Gladdy] dress in one of the three rayon skirt-suits she owned, gather bills from the rolltop desk in the living room, and get in the car and drive to the bank in Amity to confer with the person she called her financial adviser. Late in the afternoon she'd come back home to pour her bourbon, urging Sally to join her because, as she claimed, she didn't like to drink alone." (Page 119)

Scott introduces Mole into Sally's life, and that's when readers will begin to cheer her on, hoping she will take this new opportunity to turn her life around, grab onto her responsibilities, and emerge a stronger woman. When these characters come together, the scene is full of playful tension and drama as he and his friends sit in a room playing Russian Roulette.

"It was similar to a dream, inevitable and natural and illogical. A slanting light shone from the lantern; the radio crackled its song; the river splashed; the crickets chirped; the tension made breathing impossible; the air was so thick the boy could hardly lift his arm, raising the gun to his head in an attenuated motion, the effort exhausting him, drenching him in sweat, the heat of fear turning his pale skin into melting wax." (Page 104)


About halfway into Follow Me--which as a title works well for this journey type of novel--the drama heats up forcing Sally Werner to make a tough choice, and these scenes were the most vivid and well crafted. These scenes are the most vivid because they propel the plot, they are full of action, and you are right there with Sally in the thick of it, watching how these events bring out her inner strength and how they are bound to impact and force her to take conscious action.

"It meant she had to cover her face, so the next time he hit her his knuckles struck the back of her hand, bouncing her head away from him but not actually hurting her, which only enraged him more, and with a swift movement he yanked her arm away . . . his fist caught her in the mouth, driving into her gullet, shattering bone, filling her vision with a blank darkness that matched the sky." (Page 206)

"But Sally could guess what the sound signified and looked up in time to catch a glimpse of Leo leaping from the peaked roof above the door. But she didn't know he had landed on Benny Patterson until she felt her attacker veer backward. He would have pulled her with him if she hadn't ripped herself free from his grasp. He stumbled, tripped over the corner of the step, and as the cat leaped forward, Leo's weight exacerbated Benny's fall; he plunged backward, his feet came out from under him, and his head snapped hard against the brick wall of Potter's hardware.
" (Page 208)

Overall, it takes a long time to be drawn into this book, and readers may have a difficult time getting a fix on Sally Werner's character. It was hard to feel sympathetic toward her when many of the problems she faces are self-created and she often portrays herself contrary to her own actions. For instance, she considers herself a hard worker and reliable, but she gives birth and leaves her child within 24 hours of bringing him into the world, which is not a prime example of a reliable woman. Scott's prose is beautiful, but readers can easily lose their footing in the world Scott tells rather than shows her readers. Clearly, Scott is a gifted writer and uses description well to create a vivid scene, but this story may have worked better if it was told in a different way. Those readers who enjoy generational novels and coming of age stories may be interested in this novel unless they have a rough time with overly descriptive novels.

About the Author:


Joanna Scott is the author of nine books, including The Manikin, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Various Antidotes and Arrogance, which were both finalists for the PEN/Faulkner Award; and the critically acclaimed Make Believe, Tourmaline, and Liberation. A recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Award, she lives with her family in upstate New York.

Some of the Hachette Group Early Birds Blog Tour Participants:


Peeking Between the Pages
Bermudaonion
My Friend Amy
S. Krishna's Books
Booking Mama
The Tome Traveller
Diary of an Eccentric
A Novel Menagerie
Necromancy Never Pays
Caribousmom
Drey's Library
Redlady's Reading Room
The Burton Review
A Bookworm's World
Jenn's Bookshelf

***Giveaway Details***

Hachette Group has offered one lucky U.S./Canadian reader a set of Joanna Scott's books: Follow Me, Make Believe, Everybody Loves Somebody, Liberation, Tourmaline.

1. One entry, leave a comment on this post other than "pick me" or "enter me"
2. Second entry, blog, Facebook, Twitter, or spread the word and leave a link or comment on this post that you've done so.
3. Third entry, follow this blog and let me know.

Deadline is May 4, 2009, 11:59 EST.

*** Giveaway Reminder***

Don't forget to enter the Keeper of Light and Dust giveaway, here and here. Deadline is April 28 at 11:59 PM EST.


There's a giveaway for 5 copies of Girls in Trucks by Katie Crouch, here; deadline is April 29, 2009, 11:59 PM EST.

A giveaway of The Mechanics of Falling by Catherine Brady, here; Deadline is May 1 11:59 PM EST

57 comments:

jacketsandcovers said...

When I first started reading your review, Follow Me seemed right up my alley -- beautiful prose, family secrets, historical setting -- but then I got to the end, and now I'm not so sure. Seems people on GoodReads are split too.

Still, it sounds like a beautifully written book, and that's always a big plus in my book. And your review doesn't make it sound like the book totally put you off, so please enter me for the drawing.

jacketscovers AT yahoo DOT com

Dar said...

People seem really split up the middle with this one. Either they loved it or they didn't. I think it was the fragmented writing that got me and that it just seemed so drawn out. I liked the premise of the story and I think told in a different way it would have been much better.

Sandy Nawrot said...

Like the last commenter, the review seems a little mixed. However, I know Scott is an accomplished author and would love to have a set of her books. Thanks Serena! rnawrot at cfl dot rr dot com

bermudaonion said...

Don't enter me. A lot of people had trouble getting into this one, but I didn't. The second half of the book went much faster for me, but I liked it from the start.

Toni said...

I wasn't prepared for the fragmented writing.. but I got used to it and had to put on my literary appreciation cap for the book. But I am enjoying the story. I agree that for me it is hard to feel sorry for Sally as it seems that she is causing a lot of her own problems and not learning from her mistakes. So all of this self talk and what not is for nothing because it steers her in the wrong direction. Still I am enjoying the book. Great Review.

Jeanne said...

I also agree that it was hard to sympathize with Sally. But you're right about the writing; I enjoyed the description. Even the fact that Sally ticked me off is due to Scott's finely-tuned characterization. I reviewed this novel here:
http://necromancyneverpays.blogspot.com/2009/02/i-know-way.html

Anna said...

I had a hard time with this one. The story moved too slowly for my tastes. I really wanted to like it more than I did. I agree with some of the other commenters that the story was more gripping in the second half. No need to enter me of course, but I posted it in my sidebar.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric

Miriam said...

I love how you showed both sides of the coin here. Great review. Hope you like the next tour book better though! :)

LuAnn said...

I've been hearing a lot about this book, but most of the reviews have been glowing reports (as often found). I enjoyed reading your review with some warnings about, i.e, taking a while to get into the book, etc. It does sound like a good book and I'd hate to see people give up on it too early if that's the case. Please enter me in the drawing. I'd love the opportunity to read this book for myself.

reading_frenzy@yahoo.com

LuAnn said...

Oh, I'm also a follower!!!

reading_frenzy@yahoo.com

bridget3420 said...

I want to read this.

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

bridget3420 said...

I will post on my sidebar

http://bridget3420.blogspot.com

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

bridget3420 said...

I'm a follower.

bjhopper(at)me(dot)com

Marie Burton said...

Whew finally someone else was a bit put off at some of the quirks the book had. I thought I was being a critical witch after reading a lot of other reviews. I feel better now.

Marie Burton said...

(ooops don't enter me)

Bridget said...

NO need to enter me; just posted this on Win A Book.

tetewa said...

I'm always looking for new authors to read! tWarner419@aol.com

rhapsodyinbooks said...

The controversy generated by this book makes it seem more interesting to me!

nbmars AT yahoo DOT com

Indigo said...

The debate about "Follow Me" makes me want to read it all that much more and make up my own mind.

Thanks for this opportunity hon! (Hugs)Indigo

ravensquietscreams@gmail.com

Indigo said...

I also follow you on my Google Reader. Thanks! Indigo

ravensquietscreams@gmail.com

Iliana said...

Oh I just entered Anna's drawing too but I'm going to put my name in yours as well. I tried one of Scott's books a long time ago and couldn't get into it too much but I think my reading tastes have changed a bit and not to mention that Follow Me intrigues me. So thank you for hosting the wonderful giveaway!
iliana (at) bookgirl (dot) net

quelleheure4 said...

It sounds like it might be a bit slow going but perhaps by the end, it's worth it.
quelleheure4[at]gmail{dot}com

quelleheure4 said...

I'm a follower.

quelleheure4 said...

I tweeted: http://twitter.com/quelleheure4/status/1633621797

Debs Desk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
nfmgirl said...

Wow! All of those books by the same author! I'm hearing such great things about Follow Me, I can only assume that her other books are just as good. Please count me in. Thank you so much!

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

nfmgirl said...

I'm a follower

nfmgirl AT gmail DOT com

Luvdaylilies said...

The reviews seem to be mixed on this book~still I'd enjoy the chance to decide for myself if the book is one I'll enjoy!
Please enter me to win & thanks for offering a great giveaway=)

Luvdaylilies at bellsouth dot net

Erika Lynn said...

this books seems kind of complicated, but in a really good way that gives you lots of things to love about it.

sports dot erikalynn at gmail dot com

I am also a follower

Cheryl S. said...

You've done an excellent review. It gives me more of an idea what to expect when I read the book. I'm not sure I'll be thrilled with the style of writing, but I'm fascinated with the story itself.

Please include me in your drawing.
Thanks,
Cheryl
megalon22[at]yahoo[dot]com

Irene Yeates said...

I liked your comment about the appropriateness of the title, Follow Me, because it reads like a journal. I think I would like this book even though I have read conflicting reviews. I would love to win it. Regardless, I will read it.

Marie said...

I really enjoyed your review, Follow Me sounds wonderful, I would enjoy reading it!

marielay@gmail.com

Marie said...

I am a follower.

marielay@gmail.com

S. Krishna said...

I had mixed feelings about this book, and I feel like you outlined the reasons why perfectly! Great review!

Kitten22 said...

This looks great! This author seems so fun! Like someone you'd actually want to know.

BookCrossingKitten22[at]gmail[dot]com

Teddy Rose said...

This book looks great and I'm sorry I had to miss being a stop on the tour.

I would love to win!

I blogged it here:

http://teddyrose.blogspot.com/2009/04/giveaways-galore_26.html

I follow.

teddyr66 at yahoo dot com

Ladytink_534 said...

Just reading about this (especially the violence) makes me sad so I know I couldn't get through this without being in a reading slump afterward. :(

No need to enter me but great review though!

Serena said...

LadyTink: There really isn't that much violence in this book. I just happened to cite those sections because they were the most vivid for me.

Ashley said...

I've heard great reviews about the book Follow Me, and am eager to read it! My email is booksobsession@gmail.com

I also posted this contest on my sidebar at http://booksobsession.blogspot.com

nightdweller20 said...

I haven't heard much about this book so far, but I hope it's really good for me whenever I get around to reading it. I do hope it's easy for me to get into.

jaam121388 at yahoo dot com

Wanda said...

I've heard about this book and have been thinking about buying it. I would love the opportunity to win it.

nhertel85 said...

I'd like to read this book.

nhertel85ATyahooDOTcom

nhertel85 said...

I follow

nhertel85ATyahooDOTcom

kalea_kane said...

I'd like to win this book because I have read reviews on both sides of the fence and now I am completely intrigued. I need to know what will strike me. :) Thanks for the giveaway!

kalea_kane(at)yahoo(dot)com

kalea_kane said...

I am also a follower.

kalea_kane(at)yahoo(dot)com

kalea_kane said...

I also tweeted your giveaway.

http://twitter.com/kellyblackwell/status/1680411313

kalea_kane(at)yahoo(dot)com

Debs Desk said...

I have heard so many great things about this book. I would love a chance to read Follow Me. Please include me in your giveaway.
Thanks
Debbie
debdesk9(at)verizon.net

Debs Desk said...

I am a follower.
Thanks
Debbie
debdesk9(at)verizon.net

Jo-Jo said...

Although I do have a copy of Follow Me to review yet, I would love a chance to win these other books of Scott's. People seem to be split down the middle as far as liking this one or not, so I can't wait to read it myself.


joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Jo-Jo said...

I also blogged about your contest here.
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Jo-Jo said...

And I'm a follower.
joannelong74 AT gmail DOT com

Wrighty said...

I really enjoyed and appreciated your informative and honest review. The selections you chose from the book were helpful too. I've been a bit torn on this one but I think I would like to give it a try. Like so many others, I'm a bit intrigued too. Please include me in the giveaway and thank you!

5wrights1[at]verizon[dot]net

Wrighty said...

I'm a follower and I have you on my blogroll.

5wrights1[at]verizon[dot]net

Wrighty said...

I've added this to my sidebar.
http://www.wrightysreads.blogspot.com

5wrights1[at]verizon[dot]net

Kristen said...

I love the cover of this book. So lush and appealing! The unconventional prose makes it seem as if it would be right up my alley! Please enter me in the drawing.

whitreidsmama at yahoo dot com

Gwendolyn B. said...

I'd like to move this book from my wish list to my TBR pile to my read it and loved it box - so I can share it with someone else! Thanks for the chance to win a copy!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com

Gwendolyn B. said...

I'm a Follower! (tee hee!)

geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com