March 3, 2014

Review # 11: Stillwater by Nicole Helget for HFVBT

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Publication Date: February 4, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Hardcover; 336p
ISBN-10: 0547898207

Clement and Angel are fraternal twins separated at birth; they grow up in the same small, frontier logging town of Stillwater, Minnesota. Clement was left at the orphanage. Angel was adopted by the town’s richest couple, but is marked and threatened by her mother’s mental illness. They rarely meet, but Clement knows if he is truly in need, Angel will come to save him.

Stillwater, near the Mississippi River and Canada, becomes an important stop on the Underground Railroad. As Clement and Angel grow up and the country marches to war, their lives are changed by many battles for freedom and by losses in the struggle for independence, large and small.

Stillwater reveals the hardscrabble lives of pioneers, nuns, squaws, fur trappers, loggers, runaway slaves and freedmen, outlaws and people of conscience, all seeking a better, freer, more prosperous future. It is a novel about mothers, about siblings, about the ways in which we must take care of one another and let go of one another. And it’s brought to us in Nicole Helget’s winning, gorgeous prose. 

My Thoughts:

Although I found Stillwater a little slow to get into, it quickly swept me off my feet and right into pioneer life in the Minnesota Territory.

Stillwater is a character-driven novel.  There is a lot going on in this book.  At first the many different characters and situations seemed overwhelming to keep up with, but Helget was skillful at blending and weaving the stories into a beautiful tapestry.  

It would be a mistake to think the entire book is about Clement and Angel.  While they do play the predominant roles, the book is about so many more characters and their struggles.  The others' lives weave with the twins' lives but it is not only all about them.  

I have to admit that the chapters about Beaver Jean, the fur trapper and father of the twins, were my least favorites.  Mostly because I just did not like him.  I liked the intense, really, spiritual connection between Clement and Angel, but I think Mother St. John was probably my favorite character.   She was the epitome of grace, strength, hard edges when necessary, and a huge heart.  

I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to be on this tour because Stillwater was definitely a wonderful read and Helget is an author I hope to see more of in the future.

Buy the Book

About the Author

Born in 1976, NICOLE LEA HELGET grew up on a farm in southern Minnesota, a childhood and place she drew on in the writing of her memoir, The Summer of Ordinary Ways. She received her BA and an MFA in creative writing from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Based on the novel’s first chapter, NPR’s Scott Simon awarded The Turtle Catcher the Tamarack Prize from Minnesota Monthly.

Nicole Helget shares her thoughts on writing and her influences, as well as beautiful photos of her family (including six children!) at her blog. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, February 24
Spotlight & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Guest Post & Giveaway at La Vanity Victorienne
Tuesday, February 25
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Wednesday, February 26
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, February 27
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Guest Post & Giveaway at Historical Fiction Connection
Friday, February 28
Review at Sharon’s Garden of Book Reviews
Monday, March 3
Review at Lost in Books
Review & Giveaway at Staircase Wit
Tuesday, March 4
Review at Confessions of a Book Hoarder
Wednesday, March 5
Review & Giveaway at Books in the Burbs
Interview & Giveaway at The Maiden’s Court
Thursday, March 6
Spotlight & Interview at MK McClintock
Friday, March 7
Review at A Rose in the City
Review at Flashlight Commentary

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