|Hi Winnie Kay
I am happy to be reviewing you on behalf of "WdC SuperPower Reviewers Group" [E]. This review is from your Strawberry Surprise package gifted to you by Andy52in52~Wodehousing .
My first thoughts: Wow. This story is beautifully written, really engaging, and it tugs at the reader's heartstrings. I was hooked from the very beginning. When I realised what I was witnessing, I couldn't turn away until the end. It's such a fantastic idea for a story. I remember this prompt when it came out. It was based on a song, wasn't it?
Plot: This is a story of good triumphing over bad. It's a story of how you should always treat others with respect and dignity. The plot begins with an evil overseer on a farm beating a slave who is tied to a tree. The slave's mother and daughter stand watching. This description is horrific: "The whip cracked, cutting deep into the skin and pulling away pieces of flesh as it recoiled back to the punisher's feet, ready for the next blow." It's such a great description, though. It makes the reader a witness to this terrible act of cruelty. It makes us complicit, in a way. Which makes us think about our own actions a little more.
What I love is how this story doesn't end with the downtrodden slave. This story is about rising up and overcoming adversities. We learn that Granny Mama's grandfather was a great shaman in Africa. When his daughter was stolen, he cursed anybody who ever did her or her direct descendants harm. He also predicted the fourth generation of the family will rise up and fight a bloody war which, eventually, they shall win. When Bertha tells this story to Tillie, it gives her strength to believe their suffering will soon end. The icing on the cake, for me, is when the overseer is found dead. He has been strangled by his own whip. That's a nice detail. I also love how JJ's wounds heal really quickly, and he goes back to work the next day.
Characters: The characters are the stars of this story. You have created likeable, real, brave characters. Tillie, in particular, is a gem. I love her from the moment we see her stood, digging her fingernails into her palms. She has so much anger inside. That's completely understandable, though. I would have felt the same. Her speech is fab. She sounds like a ten year old child. This line made me fall even further in love with her: "'All's I gotta learn is how to kill ‘em, Granny Mama ...'" I love her guts. I could picture this scrappy, tomboyish kid ready to fight to the death.
Bertha is another great character. Actually, they all are. Even the overseer. He is brilliantly evil. "The overseer grinned as he drew back the whip." It's simple, but it tells us so much about how much he enjoys the power he has over the slaves. I imagine he is probably bottom of the pile in life in every other aspect.
Grammar: Excellent. Of course. I was never going to find lots of grammar issues in something written by you. There is this one place I'm not entirely sure about, though. "Papa, how you up and around already? After that beating?" It feels like it should be all one sentence.
What I liked: Oh, my! I love the just desserts served upon Patrick McDonald. I love the magic of Bertha's story, and how it really does seem to be true. I found this line really moving: "Tillie felt her grandmother flinch beside her, but no one moved; no one spoke, their faces expressionless." I tried to imagine what it must have been like, knowing that this really happened a lot. The way nobody dares move or defend their friend because the consequences would be too terrible. The silence in that moment must have been overwhelming. You do such a great job of pulling your readers inside the story. I really felt I was there, watching in silence.
This is another place I found emotional. "The girl picked up a small pebble and threw it at the chickens pecking in the yard. They squawked and flittered around." I know it's not one of the overtly emotional scenes, but it struck me how these two sentences, set in another story in another time, could tell of an entirely different child and family. It could be about a little girl who is free to run around and play. She could be living an idyllic life. And I found that really moving.
This line is also a great one: "And she knew that a proud black man in South Carolina in 1860 was a dangerous thing to be." It sends a chill down your spine. It forces you to remember a time in history it's much easier to forget.
I'm sorry, Winnie. I don't have any clever suggestions for improvement. I think this story is perfect as it is. It's so well written. Your style is inviting and immersive. Your descriptions are rich and so vivid. I kind of forgot I was reading during my first read-through. I became lost inside the world of fear and pain. But, this story isn't just about that, and that's what makes it extra special. It's about hope and courage and doing the right thing. I love it. Absolutely love it.
Most importantly, keep writing!