08 March 2016

Review: The Steep and Thorny Way

The Steep and Thorny Way
by Cat Winters

Publication Date: March 8th, 2016
Publisher: Amulet

THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY is an enlightening new look at discrimination, belief, and the challenges we face in trying to find our sense of identity. Based on Hamlet and told from the perspective of a biracial young woman living in small town Oregon, this haunting novel explores American views on race and sexuality in Prohibition-era America. Everyone in Elston knows that Hanalee Denney’s father was killed by Joe Adder, who was driving drunk on Christmas Eve. When Joe is released from prison and Hanalee confronts him, he tells her that he is innocent, framed by a conspiracy engineered by the rising KKK and led by Hanalee’s own stepfather. But Joe has his own secrets as well, and Hanalee’s  investigation of her father’s murder will become inextricably entangled with them as she unravels what is really going on in her deceptively peaceful community and discovers that people aren’t who they seem… especially after she is visited by her father’s ghost.

This book had distinct pros and cons for me. I loved the fact that it was centered on the West Coast during Prohibition, especially since most historical fiction novels exploring race focus on the Deep South. The incorporation of the discrimination experienced by homosexuals and the psychological recruiting methods of the KKK were both new topics that I never had read about in depth before, and were both fascinating and horrifying in equal measure. However, I was disappointed by the lack of complexity in the writing regarding multiracial identity and felt the author could have done a much better job. Often, the main character’s thoughts on this subject read as preachy, simplistic, and altogether fake, making her “voice” a little inconsistent. Regardless, I think it one of the better books currently out there on this particular subject and I encourage everyone to pick up this book and give it a read, especially because it illustrates complex social issues of the time in both accessible and gripping ways. The plot is suspenseful and hair-raising from start to finish and it is absolutely unlike anything you’ve ever read before.

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