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House of Rougeaux: A Novel by Jenny Jaeckel

House of Rougeaux: A Novel

by Jenny Jaeckel

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
In just a few short generations, the descendants of Iya, who was born a slave on the island of Martinique, find themselves living in an entirely different kind of world, faced with opportunities, choices and consequences their ancestors had never known. "House of Rougeaux" follows one branch of a family tree as it spreads across time, following select members in a story that spans nearly 200 years.

Parts of this story were beautiful, but I'm not totally sold on the structure. While I do like the way it is segmented into different characters across generations, there doesn't seem to be any logic to the order in which these stories were told. I don't think it needed to be chronological (in fact, I like that it isn't), but there didn't seem to be any kind of continuing themes or ideas that bridged the gaps between the stories. The common thread was purely familial - all the characters are descendants of the same woman. And yes, there is the family "gift" of some sort of supernatural sight that many of them share. I wanted more than that to tie them all together, though.

I think, because of this, I got tied up in keeping the plotline straight rather than allow myself to soak in the message. I found myself frequently consulting the family tree printed at the front of the book, attempting to keep track of where I was in the story. Adding to the confusion were the few instances of repeated names (Guillame's son Dax's son Guilamme's son Dax) or changing names/nicknames. Some kind of stronger connection from one story to the next would have helped make these transitions less jarring and helped with flow. ( )
  khleigh | Oct 30, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a beautiful family saga spanning 1785 to 1964, broken into seven segments. They are enslaved in Africa; carried to Martinique; taken, still enslaved, into Canada; freed; and have to navigate racism, homophobia, and just plain trying to make a living. The Rougeaux family saga is not told sequentially; it jumps around in time which I first found hard to follow but the family tree in the front of the book enabled me to sort it all out.

Iya is taken from her homeland and is later brutally raped and killed when her two children, Adunbi and Abeje are still small. Adunbi later has a daughter, but his wife dies giving birth. It is this daughter, Ayo (Hetty) who is taken to Canada by the plantation’s two white daughters; they teach her to read and when she is bought by a Free Black, Dax Rougeaux, they are all for it. Abeje stays on the island. She has a magical ability to talk to the plants; she knows which ones will heal and which ones will kill. Though she never has children, her influence is still seen in the family tree.

The writing is lovely. There is a richness to the text that absorbed me totally; when I finished the book it was like I was coming up from to sea to take a breath. The people stayed with me at least all through the next day. Before this book I knew nothing about people of color in Canada. They seem to have been treated better there than in the USA! Certainly freedom came earlier. Of course there was still a lot of prejudice to overcome. Five stars out of five. ( )
  lauriebrown54 | Sep 23, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I wasn't sure about this book as I was reading it. I loved the characters but I spent a lot of time looking back to the timeline, distracted by trying to figure out where everyone fit in. It was confusing that the chapters introduced characters in what felt like random order. But by the end I could tell that the family, the story, had been building, not jumbled, in spite of the disarray, and I did feel like the book had come full circle. I appreciated the overlay of racial and social awareness that added context and depth to the story without taking away from the characters. A sad but hopeful and beautiful book. ( )
  MizPurplest | Aug 15, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
House of Rougeaux is an intergenerational series of woven vignettes. The writing was evocative and the sense of place came through very well. The characters all had clear traits or characteristics, and their stories were almost solely about their dominating trait, and moved at a fast clip without delving into personality or choices very much. This may be due to the nature of weaving together what were essentially short stories. It was a page turner and seemed like a well-researched take on stories that aren’t often told. ( )
  SiriJR | Jul 21, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Good and interesting saga, but at times hard to read. Many characters, which gets hard to follow sometimes, but once you get into the groove of the storytelling, its worth it. I would say more of a short stories layout as you can't get attached to anyone, the story will change on a dime.
  aggie420 | Jul 13, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 66 (next | show all)
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Sitting here under this grand old tree, her skirts spread about her in a wheel.
If hardship is part of the necessary clay of life, grace is the hand that has shaped it. (p.129)
Hetty looked down at her own hands...They were the earth, baked by the sun. As if the earth had risen up and shaped itself into a living, breathing woman. As if such a thing could be. (p. 150)
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For Abeje and her brother Adunbi, home is the slave quarters of a Caribbean sugar plantation on the Island of Martinique. Under the watchful eye of their mother they survive, despite what threatens to break them. But when one night of brutality leaves the two children orphaned, it is the strength of their extraordinary bond that carries them through, establishing a legacy of tremendous spirit and courage that will sustain the Rougeaux family for generations to come.In literary prose, award-winning author Jenny Jaeckel creates a brilliantly imagined epic, weaving a multi-layered narrative that celebrates family as much as it exposes systemic brutalization and the ways in which it marks us. As each new member of the family takes the spotlight a fresh piece of the puzzle is illuminated until at last, spanning nearly two centuries, the end brings us back to the beginning.Jaeckel masterfully blends genres of mysticism, coming-of-age, folklore, and historical fiction with explorations of gender and race, creating a wondrous tale of hope and healing through trauma. A relevant work of love, determination, and the many small achievements that make up greatness,?House of Rougeaux ?draws a new map of what it means to be family.… (more)

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