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The Revenant by Sonia Gensler

The Revenant

by Sonia Gensler

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Enjoyable mystery page turner set in Indian Territory in the late 1800s. I think it does a good job of reflecting a "high society" class of Cherokees. ( )
  sydsavvy | Apr 8, 2016 |
This is story about Willie a young woman who is trying to run away from her problems only to find out they have followed her. Pulse she has whole new set of problems like not getting caught because she is lying about who she is in her adventure to make new place for herself she runs into a ghostly mystery and with a sad love triangle twist that you will never see coming till the end.
  AudryS13 | Mar 28, 2014 |
The Revenant was riveting - I knew a bit about the book as I started it but I followed so many twists and turns along the way that the story kept taking me by surprise. Willie is angry and adventurous, a combination which takes her far away from home, into Oklahoma Territory where she has her misconceptions about the west, the Cherokee and her own self all shaken in short order. Add a burgeoning mystery to the tale as well as an intriguing romantic storyline and you have a captivating recipe for a great read! ( )
  JaniceLiedl | Mar 31, 2013 |
This is one of the best ghost stories I’ve ever read. What I like about THE REVENANT is that the book is more than a ghost story, it’s a story that explores every teen’s fantasy of leaving home and forging a new life. But with a new life comes a steeper learning curve with immense rewards and dangers, especially in a world that’s constantly changing.

What brings out the originality in this story is the setting which takes place in a Cherokee girls school inside Indian Territory (Oklahoma) at the dawn of a new 20th century. I loved all the dimensions the setting brought to the book. One was the struggle of young Cherokees to either keep with the time-honored traditions of the old ways or embrace aspects of a new culture. The main character is not Cherokee but her struggle with finding her place in the world mirrors the Cherokee struggle to forge a new identity in changing times. I also must give kudos to the way Gensler handled the historical aspects of the story. Some writers would be tempted to overload such a book with needless historical details that historians would love to read, but a normal reader would skip. The history inside this novel is woven in carefully and enhances the story instead of taking the reader away from it.

The main plot of THE REVENANT focuses on sixteen-year-old Willie who arrives in Indian Territory to assume the name of a former classmate in order to get a teaching job at the Cherokee Female Seminary. Nothing prepares Willie for what she finds at the school. Her students are the daughters of the Cherokee elite—educated and more wealthy than she, and the school holds a dark secret. A student drowned in the river last year, and the girls whisper that she was killed by a jealous lover. The students also say that her spirit still haunts her old room. The very room Willie sleeps in.

I was surprised how much I loved this book. It’s truly a fantastic debut by author Sonia Gensler. I look forward to reading her next book. ( )
  dsolter | May 13, 2012 |
Review Courtesy of Dark Faerie Tales

Quick and Dirty: The Revenant is unique because of the setting and genre. The novel did get slow at times, but the conclusion is worth it to finish.

Opening Sentence: I thought by the time I’d transferred to the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway, this foolish tendency to jump at every sound, to blush each time someone looked me in the eyes, would have subsided.

The Review:

In Sonia Gensler’s debut novel about paranormal happenings at girls school in the rural Oklahoma territory near the turn of the 20th century, Willie discovers hidden identity, intrigue, and about who she really is as a young woman. In the first few chapters, we find out that Willie is posing as another girl in order to take a teaching position far from her home to escape her duties to her family. This is a difficult time for any young person to grow up in, but especially so for a girl who doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere.

First of all, I enjoyed this novel because I am from Oklahoma, and I’m somewhat familiar with the area that it takes place. There are not many paranormal novels set in rural turn of the century Oklahoma, so it was a bit of fresh air genre-wise.

Willie is now a teacher for the Cherokee Female Seminary, which is a school for anyone with some native blood who can either pay or work for their stay. Not being from the area, Willie is somewhat confused by the social and political workings of the seminary, and sometimes makes blunders which almost blow her cover. Not only is she in an almost completely unfamiliar situation, Willie also has to deal with the ghost of a deceased student who torments and bothers the students and herself. There is a lot of intrigue about the death of the student that Willie uncovers over the course of the novel. Attacks on the students increase as Willie tries to find out why the spirit is so vengeful. Faced with something that she cannot see or run away from, Willie must be strong and look out for her students.

There are a few storylines that are working throughout the novel which gives it more of a realistic feel to it since life is never as simple as some make it out to be. Willie is running from home because she misses her father and does not want to accept her step-father. She is not much older than any of the girls she is teaching, and has to remember her place is that of a teacher, and not a companion or equal. She cannot really enjoy life because she is bound by her job, her lie to get the job, and her own social problems. Willie is attracted to a student from the male seminary, but cannot pursue it because of their positions.

The characters of this novel are not always the most likeable people, but are fairly believable through their actions and speech. Willie did an immoral thing by stealing a girl’s identity to get a job, and later tries to justify it by explaining how her home life wasn’t to her liking. I understand not wanting to return to a crappy life, but in this time period, Willie really did not have much of a choice. She eventually returns home and grows to like it after seeing that it wasn’t as bad as she thought it would be. This growth made a positive impact in my mind of Willie’s character.

The students of the seminary act along their social station line and some treat Willie better than others. Her fellow teachers are nice, but somewhat distant except for the friendly Miss Adair. Willie is stressed out and not always a good friend to Miss Adair, so they eventually have a falling out. The principal is strict and humorless, which seems fairly common for females in education of the time period. They had a lot of responsibility entrusted to them with the education of the youth that principals and teachers often were very harsh to keep the students in line and retain the professionalism and reputation of the school.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, and was surprised by the ending. The paranormal aspects are almost a back-story that brings all of the other storylines together as Willie uncovers the truth about what happened to the girl who died too young. I would recommend this for anyone interested in historical fiction. Gensler did a lot of research before writing this novel, and it shows. The paranormal parts are well done, and seem just a bit unreal, which is what makes it a fantastic experience.

Notable Scene:

“You seem very young,” said Fannie, her demeanor prim but her green eyes flashing with mischief. “How long did you teach before coming to the seminary?”

I knew this trap only too well—I’d seen girls set it at the Athenaeum. As soon as they knew a teacher had come straight from school, their respect plummeted dramatically. They began to calculate the pranks they could pull. Why hadn’t I thought of this?

“I think you know Miss Bell, that before arriving here I was at the Columbia Athenaeum in Tennessee.” That was vague enough. They might actually believe I’d been teaching there. “Now, if you’ll open your readers and turn to—“

Fannie Bell was raising her hand again, and this time she didn’t wait for my acknowledgement before she spoke.

“How do you like your room, Miss McClure?”

What was she playing at? “I have a lovely room.”

“Do you hear anything at night?” Her eyes widened. “Have you seen anything strange?”

A nervous titter arose from some of the girls, while others squirmed in their seats.

I took a breath and spoke slowly. “I haven’t heard or seen anything, Miss Bell.”

“I ask, Miss McClure, because that room belongs to a dead girl.”

FTC Advisory: Random House provided me with a copy of The Revenant. No goody bags, sponsorships, “material connections,” or bribes were exchanged for my review. ( )
  DarkFaerieTales | Feb 23, 2012 |
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I thought by the time I'd transferred to the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway, thos foolish tendency to jump at every sound, to blush each time someone looked me in the eye, would have subsided.
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When Willie arrives in Indian Territory, she knows only one thing: no one can find out who she really is. To escape a home she doesn't belong in anymore, she assumes the name of a former classmate and accepts a teaching job at the Cherokee Female Seminary.

Nothing prepares her for what she finds there. Her pupils are the daughters of the Cherokee elite—educated and more wealthy than she, and the school is cloaked in mystery. A student drowned in the river last year, and the girls whisper that she was killed by a jealous lover. Willie's room is the very room the dead girl slept in. The students say her spirit haunts it.

Willie doesn't believe in ghosts, but when strange things start happening at the school, she isn't sure anymore. She's also not sure what to make of a boy from the nearby boys' school who has taken an interest in her—his past is cloaked in secrets. Soon, even she has to admit that the revenant may be trying to tell her something. . . .
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When seventeen-year-old Willemina Hammond fakes credentials to get a teaching position at a school for Cherokee girls in nineteenth-century Oklahoma, she is haunted by the ghost of a drowned student.

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