Thursday, November 8, 2012

A Desire Path, by Jan Shapin

Life during the Depression and World War II was interesting, and the world was full of interesting people.  For Andy, Anna Mae, and Ilse, lives intersect at odd and interesting angles.  These three people dance in and out of each others lives for years, each drawn to the other in ways that are almost obsessive.  Much of the attraction within this triangle involves the politics and political affiliations of each person.

I absolutely adore books set during the 1930s and 1940s, so I jumped at a chance to review this book.  Pretty quickly I realized I was over my head, but in a pretty wonderful way.  A large portion of this book focuses on two aspects of that historical period about which I know very little: labor unions and Communism.  Because of this, I found myself wondering away from the text to learn more about these aspects of history, so to better understand the nuances of the book, particularly from Andy's perspective.  This book sparked a long, detailed conversation with my husband.  And I love when books push me to learn and grow.  Fiction can be educational.

I really liked the way the book is set up, with each main character getting their own part of the book.  I struggled with Andy's section, mostly because I knew so little of labor union politics.  My heart broke for Anna Mae during her section of the book, mostly because she seemed so lonely.  Seeing each character from the others' points of view, as well as hearing their stories first hand, really makes the reader get a good picture of each character.  I found this to be some of the most complete character development I have ever encountered.  In some ways I felt like I knew the characters better than they knew each other.

The narrative does jump around a bit on the timeline, especially in Andy's section of the book, which gave me a little trouble until I got the rhythm of it.  For this reason, I really took my time reading this book, and allowed myself to fully grasp the impact of the stories. 

I found the book truly fascinating.  Fans of historic literature will enjoy, and there is a nice romantic aspect to the story as well.  It's just a solid story that made me stretch my knowledge base.

I received a review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours in exchange for my honest review. See the rest of the tour here.

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If you liked this review, please rate it (and others!) as helpful on my Amazon profile. My Amazon Profile


  1. Tiffany—I was so happy to read your review. You really “got” what I was trying to do; three characters each with their own section, how the reader learns about of each of them mostly through what the other two feel and say about them. Anna Mae’s story is heartbreaking—such wrongheaded courage, and the story originated through my effort to understand what made the real historical character do the things she did. I’d love to put your review on my website and share it with others. Jan Shapin, Author of A Desire Path

  2. I love it when a book stretches my mind and teaches me new things - sounds like this would be that kind of book for me. Glad you enjoyed it so much!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

  3. There have been many books I've set down just so I could look up something it talked about. I agree that fiction really can be educational, and in fact fiction that teaches me something is my favorite kind!