Margaret Anne: Child of the West Wind
by Ronan James Cassidy
Xulon Press

"Miss Meara Calhoun now understood why the soulless lords of her witchery had coveted the girl far beyond that of her own wants."

In this expansive book, readers follow Margaret Anne, the daughter of a wealthy Carolina businessman and a Haitian woman. Though her parents’ love is forbidden, and the resulting child of their union is ultimately born in secret, the girl proves to be a light to others. Readers follow Margaret Anne as she navigates growing up and existing as a woman in a society in which women have few options. By the summer of 1880, Margaret Anne leaves her Southern colonial roots and establishes herself as a mother in Vermont. There, she stays busy raising her three children and longing for “the days spent with Mr. Virgil O’ Keefe out in their beautiful field of summer cotton.” Meanwhile, readers traverse the decades and a well-to-do family’s lineage through the Civil War and eventually into the early 1920s, where Margaret Anne’s story continues unfolding.

This historical novel is an examination of and portrayal of one of the most turbulent times in American history—the years leading up to and then following the Civil War. It includes a wide cast of characters who each face their own complex spiritual and physical battles. These battles ultimately mirror the larger complexities of American society during the decades in which the novel is set. However, no other character’s spiritual and moral struggle to find and establish her own identity comes close to mirroring America’s radical transformation than Margaret Anne’s. Therefore, in Margaret Anne’s character, readers discover a unique symbol. At times, she seems supernatural. This supernaturality, and particularly the light which Margaret Anne brings to others, creates a psychological effect that grips readers.

The author’s writing style also mirrors the historical and social complexities of the time in which the novel is set. The writing and dialogue will likely remind many readers of other nineteenth-century novels or modern books set during that particular historical period. Frequently, the writing style carefully showcases the novel’s spirituality. For example, readers encounter eloquent, philosophical passages, such as “And the night held those words safe until the gifting of the splendor of morning light.” This writing also embodies the light which Margaret Anne brings to others, a light that reaches full luminescence as the novel concludes.

The novel also bears a unique spiritual and philosophical message which readers discover via the character of Miss Elizabeth Ann. An example of this is seen when she states, “Let us return to the front porch that will forever belong to the days of Edward and Jeanne and remember all of the beautiful things in this life that have come to pass between us with the love of God set upon our hearts.” Her message is clear: readers should pause and remember the good things in life which have shaped their passage through it. In this book, the author paints an intimate portrayal of a country’s and a woman’s pursuit of identity and survival. Readers who enjoy literature set during the Civil War or practically anyone who enjoys historical fiction will appreciate this novel, while those looking for a new kind of heroine will find one in Margaret Anne.

A 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award Montaigne Medal Finalist

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