When Supernatural & VooDoo Work for Me: The Gates of Evangeline and The Star Side of Bird Hill

September 10, 2015 Mini Book Reviews 22

Supernatural and/or voodoo type elements are usually turn offs for me in books, but The Gates of Evangeline and The Star Side of Bird Hill are two debut novels that bucked the trend!

The Gates of Evangeline, Hester YoungThe Gates of Evangeline by Hester Young
Southern Fiction (Released September 1, 2015)
416 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it…if you’re looking for a Southern family drama page turner.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Publisher (Putnam) via NetGalley

Plot Summary: To escape the grief over losing her son, New Yorker Charlotte Cates decamps to Louisiana to write a book about a thirty year-old missing person case involving the wealthy Deveau family of the estate, Evangeline.

My Thoughts: I love me some Southern family drama and books about wealthy people behaving badly, so it’s not surprising that those aspects of this debut novel appealed to me. But, The Gates of Evangeline also contains a number of elements that usually turn me off: ghosts/visions, a cliche romance, some cheesy writing, and some predictable plot twists. But, I really enjoyed this book despite all the red flags. It reads quickly and easily and, though I guessed a couple of the major plot points early on, I was surprised by most of the surrounding details. Maybe I just needed a solid Southern family drama page turner or, maybe, I just needed an easy read. Whatever the reason, The Gates of Evangeline came along at just the right time and would make a great beach read.

Star Side of Bird Hill, Naomi JacksonThe Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
Fiction (Released June 30, 2015)
294 Pages
Bottom Line: Read it.
Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon
Source: Purchased

Plot Summary: After their mother becomes unable to care for them in Brooklyn, sisters Dionne (16) and Phaedra (10) are sent to live with their midwife grandmother (Hyacinth) on Bird Hill in Barbados.

My Thoughts: Everything about this debut novel is just gorgeous: most obviously the writing, but also the coming of age story with generational and cultural clashes front and center. Dionne and Phaedra have been raised in troubling circumstances in Brooklyn and experience quite a culture shock when they arrive on conservative Bird Hill. They suddenly have far more oversight and discipline than they’re used to in the form of Hyacinth’s tough love. Each sister adjusts to Bird Hill differently and poses unique challenges for Hyacinth, resulting in most of the “life lessons” passages that pepper this novel.

You can’t wait for someone else to save you from the life you made for yourself. If I teach you girls anything, I hope it’s how to gird up your loins and face the fate that’s yours.

Jackson’s language flows beautifully, with a comforting tone that invites you into the hominess of Bird Hill. With Hyacinth’s role as the local midwife and practitioner of Obeah (a Caribbean form of folk magic involving herbs and potions) and a high value placed on community and religion, there is a strong sense of place and a simpler way of life. I’m usually not a huge fan of anything resembling folk magic, but Jackson makes it work here much like it worked for me in The Unraveling of Mercy Louis and The Shore. The Star Side of Bird Hill was my favorite August read, came this close to getting 5 stars from me, and is going on my Great Books Under 300 Pages List!

22 Responses to “When Supernatural & VooDoo Work for Me: The Gates of Evangeline and The Star Side of Bird Hill”

  1. Kay

    I’ve seen quite a bit about The Gates of Evangeline and liked what I saw. Am planning on reading it sometime this fall. Gothic and fall go well together – at least for me. 🙂

  2. JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    Supernatural elements and voodoo are instant turn-offs for me, too, yet both of these novels sound appealing. The audio version of The Gates of Evangeline is read by January Lavoy. Her narration of Dollbaby was phenomenal, so I’ll definitely be listening to this one.

    • admin

      Oooh – I didn’t realize the audio was narrated by the same person who did Dollbaby…those two books actually reminded me a bit of each other.

    • admin

      You know, when I was reading it I meant to text you because I thought you might really like it (and of course forgot to actually send the text!). So, I think you should definitely give it a shot!

    • admin

      I know, right?! I need one every now and then and always like to have a couple in my back pocket because my real life friends ask me for recs like that all the time.

  3. JanRowell

    Thanks for your reviews. I want to put in a plug for the audio version of Star Side. It’s read by Robin Miles and is outstanding!!

  4. Kerry M

    So glad you liked Bird Hill!! The writing is so gorgeous. I’ve got a copy of The Gates of Evangeline somewhere around here and you’ve piqued my interest!

  5. Becca

    I am not much for family dramas, nor cheesy romance, so I’m not sure the supernatural elements would make up for that.

    The Star Side of Bird Hill appeals to me much more. Voodoo? Bring it on, girl! Folk magic? Yes, please! I love anything like that usually. I prefer stories that someone I know wouldn’t tell me over the phone (which is usually why I stay clear of family dramas!)

  6. Carmen

    I’m glad you liked them both. I like folk magic and ghostly apparitions in paranormal romances, so they would be right up my alley.

  1. Books that Make Perfect Holiday Gifts 2015 | Sarah's Book Shelves

    […] The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson Fiction (Released June 30, 2015) 294 Pages Affiliate Link: Buy from Amazon Summary: After their mother becomes unable to care for them in Brooklyn, sisters Dionne (16) and Phaedra (10) are sent to live with their midwife grandmother (Hyacinth) on Bird Hill in Barbados. My Thoughts: Everything about this debut novel is just gorgeous: most obviously the writing, but also the coming of age story with generational and cultural clashes front and center. Dionne and Phaedra have been raised in troubling circumstances in Brooklyn and experience quite a culture shock when they arrive on conservative Bird Hill. Continue Reading… […]

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    […] based on her reviews whether or not a book will work for me. And based on her recommendation of Gates of Evangeline, I bought it and loved it. It broke me out of my blogging and reading […]

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