Foreword Reviews

Down to the Potter’s House

Clarion Rating: 3 out of 5

In the historical novel Down to the Potter’s House, the meaning of home is defined and redefined.

In Annette Valentine’s historical novel, Down to the Potter’s House, a young woman struggles to come to terms with what has become of her family and her childhood home.

Before Gracie leaves on a missionary trip, she returns to her hometown in Kentucky to spend the holidays with her family at Hillbound, the tobacco farm turned racehorse breeding stable where she grew up. Despite her ambitions and her good relationship with her siblings—and a fortuitous encounter with a handsome stranger—her unhappy adolescence haunts her. It takes faith and personal resolve for Gracie to find the courage to change what she can, and the serenity to accept what she cannot.

Within the novel, Hillbound is rendered in beautiful detail, changing with the seasons and with its slow, painful decline. The nearby community, Elkton, has not progressed much since the Civil War, and so outdated terminology is sometimes used, while dark suggestions are made about the source of Gracie’s family’s wealth.

Real historical details add color. Much of the story takes place during the heady days of the early 1920s, but it is bookended by the depths of the Great Depression. These disparate settings reflect Gracie’s personal journey, too: in 1922, she is an idealistic, headstrong teenager, driven by her passion for teaching and not quite aware that there is more going on in her family than she understands. By 1930, she has suffered through many tragedies, but is more determined than ever to build a life and a family her own way.

Gracie’s passion for teaching is ignited by the time she spends reading to the Black children who live at Hillbound, whose father she holds in high regard, though these characters are not developed on their own merit; the children function as props in Gracie’s development. Further, Gracie’s narration is sometimes overwrought. Especially when she is younger, her speech does not always suit her age and level of experience, and some conversations are jumpy.

Both Hillbound and Gracie change over the course of the novel. Gracie, who learns to open herself up to change, attains peace and hopefulness. Other narrative threads, like that related to the fate of Gracie’s neighbor, are left as tantalizing mysteries.

In the historical novel Down to the Potter’s House, the meaning of home is defined and redefined.

Reviewed by Eileen Gonzalez

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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