Expected Publication: July 1st, 2014
By: Julia Mary Gibson
Can an unearthed talisman found on the shores of Lake Michigan save 12-year-old Violet's fractured family? Exploring themes of Native American culture, ecology, and conservation, this historical fiction novel comes brilliantly to life.
The year is 1906, and twelve-year-old Violet Blake unearths an ancient talisman --a copper hand-- beside the stream where her mother used to harvest medicine. Violet's touch warms the copper hand and it begins to reveal glimpses of another time. Violet is certain that the copper hand is magic -- and if anyone is in need of its powers, it's Violet. Her mother and adored baby brother are gone, perhaps never to return. Her heartbroken father can't seem to sustain the failing farm on the outskirts of Pigeon Harbor, on the shores of Lake Michigan.
Surely the magic of the copper hand can make things right for Violet and restore her fractured family. Violet makes a wish. But her ignorant carelessness unleashes formiddable powers -- and her attempts to control them jeopardizes not only herself, but the entire town of Pigeon Harbor.
In Copper Magic, land and waters are alive with memories, intentions, and impulses. Magic alters Violet and brings her gifts -- but not always the kind she thinks she needs. First-time author Julia May Gibson brings Violet and her community to life in this impressive and assured debut.
Violet Blake has been living with just her father on their farm for months now, ever since her mother took her baby brother Francis (aka Fry) and left. Violet doesn't know why she left, when she's coming back and is actually starting to believe that both her Mom and her brother are actually dead. Twelve year old Violet is stuck between a child and a teenager, outgrowing her shabby clothes and trying to stay a kid, but being forced into responsibility be her meddling Aunt. The property down by the lake has been "bought" by church people, who are setting up camp for the summer. Violet makes friends with a preacher's kid and one day by the lake she finds a copper hand, that she thinks is magical. Maybe the hand can bring back her family and put her life back to normal. But when the copper hand unleashes powers that Violet can't control and that could cause a lot of harm, and it is taken away by priveleged people who don't understand it, it's up to Violet to save the hand and return it to where it belongs before it's too late.
The main draw for me was the fact that this book is set in Michigan, near Lake Michigan. It also didn't hurt that this was a historical fiction book set in my home state. I love me some decent historical fiction. The tone was very reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, but without the stately wisdom that seems to assert itself in that novel (even with the main characters being children). Violet Blake is our protagonist in this one, and while I get that kids were a hell of a lot more innocent/naieve/less jaded in the early 1900s for the most part, I just did NOT feel like I was reading something from the point of view of a twelve year old. I honestly couldn't think of Violet as any older than nine or so years old. Especially since most of this book centers around her unwavering belief in the magical powers of a hand made out of copper!
Probably my favorite thing in this book as I was reading, ended up being the usage of Native American mysticism and culture to bring home the power of belief to make things change. Also, I really loved the way Gibson portrayed the Native American people in this novel (Violet is actually the product of a half N.A. mother and a white father). She doesn't ignore the racism and demeaning cultural attitudes of the time period, but still manages to make the characters rich and very developed. They are never just convenient stereotypes. There is also some beautiful imagery to do with the beaches, the Hotel that draws in the tourists every summer and the general natural beauties of Michigan. The biggest complaint on my part would probably be the lack of personal change of Violet's part. She spends the whole summer apprenticed to a famous lady photographer, trying to make wishes on a magical artifact and trying to retrieve the hand once it's been stolen. Not to mention her issues with her father and her Aunt, who wants to make Violet into something she's not (and doesn't want to be) - a proper young lady. Yet for all the heartache and trouble that the hand and her naievte bring into her life, Violet never seems to change all that much during the ensuing drama and tragedy. Even the aftermath doesn't seem to affect her all that much. I did appreciate the unresolved nature of the situation with Violet's Mom. I liked that things were nowhere near as simple as she had made them, and that Violet and her Dad went in search of her Mom, instead of just taking the easy out, and having her return. Overall, it's a very well written, historical fiction novel worth reading if you like a good mystical mystery. I just feel like it belongs more in the middle grade catergorization than in the YA pool of novels.
VERDICT: 3/5 Stars
*I received this book as part of Around the World ARC Tours, run by the lovely Princess Bookie. No favors or money were exchanged for this review. This book's expected publication date is July 1st, 2014.*