[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]1971 — In the tiny, backward town of Tulma, Tennessee, optimistic, bookish Caroline Carson unwittingly finds herself in the middle of a forbidden romance. Severely neglected by her family and forced to flee Tulma to protect her secrets, Caroline’s young life comes crashing down around her. She finds refuge in a new town, but the past always has a way of stretching around time and stirring up trouble.
When a new love comes into her life, she has to decide if she can give her heart to someone else, or if she will always be tied to someone she can’t have.[/quote]
The details described in this book may not be suitable for readers below the age of 18 as descriptions of rape, alcoholism, child neglect, and abuse are depicted.
Earlier this year, Willow released her debut novel, True
Love Story, which I read and loved. I was very excited to see she was working on another book, a few actually, but that this one was something completely different from TLS. I knew Willow could grab me with her writing and story line, and I was very interested in seeing what she’d do in a departure from what she debuted, since it’s not the norm for writers to do that right out the gate. There’s lots of series and spin offs, or at least stories similar in nature. While In the Fields was a love story, there was so much more there. So much. I was challenged, happy, scared, so so so sad, but also uplifted.
The book takes place in small-town Tennessee, from 1971 to 1977. I absolutely loved this aspect to the story, because it’s from a time when things were so completely different, especially in the South, and that’s crazy to me since it was that long ago. As in, my mom was in high school.
Caroline Carson is fourteen, almost fifteen, and seriously neglected by her family. Her father, an alcoholic, and her mother, well, she’s just a bitch. I couldn’t have more disgusted with this woman. She made my skin crawl to the very end. I kept hoping, just maybe, she would make some small change. Redeem herself. Never. Ick. Caroline’s relationship with Isaiah Washington, a black boy, is of course incredibly frowned upon in Tulma, their town of less than 7,000. They sneak time together when they can. And they make this friendship, turned young love, work in the only way they know how. For as long as they can.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]She’s been the only one in my world who completely sees past my skin. In a town like Tulma, a love like that is miraculous. And I just gave that away.[/quote]
So many disturbing events take place over the course of this story. And I don’t want to take away from a reader’s experience, because while I did have an inkling of a couple things that might happen, there was a lot I didn’t see coming. All that said, Caroline and Isaiah both together and separately deal with their fair share of heartache, loss, devastation, racism … you name it, they were faced with it. And from such a young age. They just kept going. When I think of myself at 14-15 years old, these were not the things I had to worry about, and so I really liked reading something totally different than what I know. For me, a big part of reading is getting to escape, and get out of my own head. While I like when I can relate to characters in some ways (and I could with these characters), I also like to read something outside of what makes me feel comfortable. I like the squirm. I like the racing heart. The sadness. The giddiness. All of that. In the Fields did this for me.
I sit here now, at nearly 3am, trying to wrap my head around all of it, to be honest. This story challenged me to think of a different place and time. And how it would’ve been to grow up in such a way. There were familial and societal injustices at play here, on top of a whole other slew of tragedies along the way. I can’t imagine living a life where you’re told you’re not allowed to be with who you love. Of course, this is very sadly still a complete reality in our current world. But in the face of that, so many couples persevere, so many times when I’m not sure how you wouldn’t just give up.
[quote align=”center” color=”#999999″]”That’s what love is all about, Caroline. And I love you more than anything.”[/quote]
This was a story about not giving up. The strength of these characters was nothing short of amazing. I loved the supporting characters, as well–Miss Greener, Miss Sue, Sadie, Ruby, Brenda, Shelby, Papa, Davis. They did just as much for the story as Caroline and Isaiah, and I appreciated each of their purposes and the way they made me love them just as much…Davis! The story is told primarily through Caroline’s POV, but we do get quite a few chapters from Isaiah’s and I thought where they came in the book were perfect. I would just get to a point when I was wondering what he would think of something, and there his POV would appear!
Willow once again blew me away. She made me feel all the feels. At one point, I was crying so very hard. On my living room floor. Attached to the outlet because my iPad was about to die. But I had to keep going. Snotting on the carpet and all.
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Willow Aster is the author of True L̶o̶v̶e̶ Story and In the Fields, two standalone books published in 2013. When she’s not writing, you can find her staring out into space, dreaming about new characters. She also enjoys sliding across the hardwood floor in her socks and twirling in the sand.