A well-researched account of the lives of a pioneer family as they travel west to settle in the Michigan Territory, The Year the Stars Fell delves deep down into the nitty-gritties of daily life back then. The kinds of things most westerns or books about the early settlers gloss over. I appreciated that the author didn’t try to romanticize the hardships these people faced. She laid it all out for everyone to see, from the majesty of an untouched country to the ugliness and heartbreak of illness and destruction. I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and seeing what life could have been like in the early pioneering days.
However, as much as I enjoyed the story, I found the writing itself to be jarring, but that might just be a personal preference issue. Repetition is a pet peeve of mine, and not only were words used multiple times in the same sentence, but phrases were too, and ideas were repeated to the point I almost set the book down and didn’t finish.
Sadly, there were discrepancies in some of the finer details. I’m the kind of reader who, when they hear a date or age, immediately tries to reconcile the numbers. In this case, we were told that the parents had been married for 37 years, they moved to PA soon after they married when the oldest two children were still young, lived in PA for 30 years before they headed west, and their oldest child was 24. Math isn’t my strongest subject, but…
I also struggled with the ages of the children. It seemed to me that the girls’ ability to break out in spontaneous pitch-perfect renditions of old hymns perfectly suited to the occasion in question would have been beyond their abilities as the small children they were supposed to be. I know for a fact my own young daughters would not think to associate a hymn with the very mention of a key word in the song every single time the opportunity arose. With the author’s tendency to portray a 16 year old female as a child and a 24 year old man as one who’d just outgrown his teen years, I doubt she was thinking of the two youngest sisters as being mature beyond their years.
When it came to the older “children”, it felt as though the characters were written through the lens of a 2020 viewpoint, where a girl of 16 is considered a child, instead of keeping in mind the reality of life in the 1830s where a girl of 16 would have been considered a woman, or at the very least, a young woman almost ready for marriage, and a man of 24 would most definitely have been considered a man for quite some years.
Unfortunately, I found the way the characters were written made me dislike all of them, and sadly, I only kept reading to the end because I wanted to know what happened next in the story, not because I cared about the people. This book held great potential, and I started out feeling sympathetic to what they were going through, but bitterness, anger, and constant whining were themes ever-present to the point I tired of the characters and never felt invested in their stories.
I requested a copy of this book to review. The opinions expressed here are my own.