The story begins as Charley looks back over his life, the ancestors from whence he came and the legacy that was left to him. He and his brother and sister were born to devout parents whose livelihood was in farming. When their parents died unexpectedly of yellow fever, Charley became his siblings' guardian, ensuring a home and provision for them, despite challenge, trial, hardship, and uncertainty.
Part coming-of-age, part documentary-style, and all well-researched historical fiction, the novel explores such themes as childhood, maturity, relationships, family, the value of hard work, loss, and the inevitability of change.
McLain writes a well-wrought, thorough tale, almost like an autobiography that follows the life of one man and his family and relations from his ancestor to his progeny (many generations thereof). The characters are memorable, the historical details seamlessly incorporated.
Intriguingly, the work is more of a chronological accounting than an actual novel --- picture it as Dickens' David Copperfield meets Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series, with less of a traditional plot structure (which would have one or more major conflicts to carry the weight of the action) and more of a fictional biography, with the typical ups and downs of an average, everyday life.
If I had a wish for the work for its improvement, it would be that future editions be given a thorough proofread prior to publication, just because the occasional error tends to drag the reader out of an otherwise well-crafted story.
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Author: Shirley McLain
Title: Dobyns Chronicles
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Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the author in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.