Friday, November 02, 2012

Book Review: One's Way Home by R. Michael Buck

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A mostly enjoyable, somewhat fictionalized, tale about the author's mother, One's Way Home paints an, albeit somewhat narrow, picture of gender politics and the realities of that stretch of time between the Great War and the Depression.  At times it seems like you can hear Buck's mother's voice, telling her story in the words her own children would have heard it. I want to hear more of her story now. I want to know more about this woman whose life took such unexpected turns and how those turns affected who came to be.
My primary criticisms of the book are fairly straightforward. First, the book needs to come with a trigger warning. Spoiler alert, but it talks about orphans, the primal wound of being torn from one's family, mistreatment of children, and a kidnapping. This warning makes it sound more upsetting than it is, but these are issues that people struggle with, and they should be warned. Second, Buck commits one of the cardinal sins of self publishing, which is rushing the manuscript to print without a proper editing. Sadly, the grammatical errors, exclamation mark abuse, tense shifts, and instances of homophone confusion hinder the story. I have said it before and I will say it again, if you are going to self publish, do yourself a favor and hire an editor. It doesn't have to be an expensive editor, but a pair of fresh eyes will catch a lot of things that grammar checking programs will not. My third criticism is that the brevity with which the story is told means that all of the social commentary within One's Way Home is brief almost to the point of glib. While deplorable or difficult conditions or inequity in expectations due to class or gender are addressed, they are addressed so briefly that the treatment almost seems glib. Elaboration may have added to the page count, but it certainly would have also added to the richness of the text and the historic gravitas.
Overall, I am glad I read this story, and I feel that the subject matter is very important to understanding the complex history of our Nation. Too many children go through their entire education without learning about the orphan trains, and they played an important role in shaping the world we live in today.
If you've got an hour and a half for a short tale about a woman's origins, this may be just the light reading you're looking for.


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