Foreword Reviews

Even As We Breathe

In the hot Southern summer of Even As We Breathe, the groundbreaking first novel from Cherokee writer Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, a young man’s loyalties and foundational stories are tested.

WWII cleared the Carolina mountains of its young men, but Cowney Sequoyah was born with a twisted foot; he is left behind. Still, Cowney, the son of a WWI hero, is eager to serve in whatever capacity he can. He accepts a groundskeeping job at Asheville’s storied Grove Park Inn, which has been conscripted to host foreign diplomats in a polite form of detention. Also working at the inn is Essie, a brilliant young woman from home whom he’s desperate to know better.

As Essie and Cowney form a fragile friendship over dominoes and books in an unused room of the inn, Cowney also contends with the uneasy parts of growing up: questions about who he’ll become; concerns over the health of the warm grandmother who raised him and the prickly uncle who holds him at a distance; caustic attitudes toward Native Americans, of whom loyalty is demanded and to whom equality is denied; and the pains of unrequited love. The inn’s “guests” are a scant presence in Cowney’s coming of age, which, when it’s amplified by a disappeared diplomat’s child and unfair suspicions, becomes a complicated affair.

The distinct features of Cowney’s Qualla Boundary home, where a freed circus capuchin explores the tree lines, a mystical waterfall cave waits in the mist, and fires and outsiders are a constant annoyance, glitter among the book’s mysteries and surprises. Family losses and revelations cap off Cowney’s summer of self-improvement, during which his heart is broken and his determination is soldered.

Avoided family truths become a source of freedom in the fascinating historical novel Even As We Breathe.

Reviewed by Michelle Anne Schingler

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the author for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

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