Marin Hoelz is the author of
Beyond the Blue Ridge
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Reviews from the most recent:
I just downloaded [Beyond the Blue Ridge] and started reading. And couldn't stop. The style of narrative is so lucid, it just sucks you in. I am loving it…
…I just finished your book, and like I said from the start, the narrative, from Chlo's point of view, really pulled me in.
Chlo's struggle to find her identity and place in life, as she overcomes multiple struggles—abusive relationships, a disastrous marriage, studying and working as a single mother, are struggles that many women can relate to. But what was interesting to me is how the lack of an empathetic mother-daughter bond really impacts on Chlo and her sense of self-worth. Because I see this so often in India where like Chlo's mother, women often internalize misogyny and neglect their daughters in their hankering for sons. Though it's implied, I think I would have liked to have seen Chlo make a conscious connection, perhaps in her interaction with her own daughter.
There were a couple of instances where the narrative briefly shifted away from Chlo's POV to that of other characters, like Rick's in Ch 4 and Sue's in Ch 6 or her son in the end. And I personally would have preferred it to stay within Chlo's POV, because as a reader I am more interested in what she observes, thinks, and feels than Rick or Sue do.
I would have also liked to have known more about the significance of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the story. There is a painting in Chlo's sister's house [of their father’s farm]. and Chlo's husband buys her father's farm there. But I would have liked to have known more about what her pull to this place was. As I was reading passages, I was reminded of my ecology field trips there as a student at George Washington University. Those Mountains were so serene and beautiful!
The description of race dynamics in the University or at work with reservation etc. in the 70s was very interesting. It's something often not talked about. And it needs to be discussed or at least noted even if in a novel format. But some of the places where Chlo's observations are turned into generalized statements, I think putting them across as what Chlo thought and felt would make it more credible and strengthen the narrative. When I was in the US I was aware of some black American students being resentful of Indian and Chinese students from abroad, because they said universities were using them to replace them to fulfill the minority quota. The reason they were doing it was because often Indian and Chinese students scored well in SATs and performed well, and it kept up the college's scores. But then, like Chlo, a lot of us from India and China have families pushing us to achieve academically.
I think it is interesting that Chlo's pursuit of academics was probably because of ideas instilled in her by her parents. And ultimately that kept her focused on those goals and materially gave stability to her life and built her confidence and self-esteem. It's what helped her survive as a single mother.
S.Sloane 5.0 out of 5 stars
A Truly Powerful Story!!
I just finished Beyond the Blue Ridge, what a fantastic read, I loved it!!
The character Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play has appeared and come to life around the world for more than four hundred years. The actual people sitting in Shakespeare’s audience are long gone and unknown; not a hint of most of them exists. They are basically not real although they were actual people.
In creating real characters, authors present “a larger truth, of which facts form a part.”
Great authors make characters who are more real than any specific person around them. But they show us the real truths in the human character and in the paths through the world that we have to travel.
Chlo, main protagonist and point of view, has gone through as many lives as the proverbial cat. And, there is a satisfying number of epilogues.
While these pages encompass the gut realities of a young woman's efforts to forge a career and [have] a traditional family in the 1970s, all the handicaps of that era emerge to stall her: the ivy-festooned small college that frowns on the female member of a faculty couple “living together” outside marriage; the city college that will hire a man over a more qualified woman; the need to work harder and longer for less money than a male colleague; the dual worry over safe (then still illegal) abortions and the lack of healthcare and extra maternity leave for the expectant mother; the struggle for reliable childcare.
Add to this the crumbling marriage to a man unable to control his alcoholism, and unable to cut ties to previous relationships or take up any household responsibility. Meanwhile Chlo wrestles with a past which cuts in through flashbacks to an unhappy, demeaning childhood. Contact and a current visit to a supportive elder sister ultimately help keep her grip on her own sense of self-worth.
Around all this swirls a passing kaleidoscope of glimpses into other marriages and career ups and downs in a setting that pits the needs/ambitions of a city college up against its adjunct community-based extension center, with a multicultural cast of characters.
The Blue Ridge of the title is the name of a painting by her sister now in Chlo's possession: the depiction of their father's lost dream of a farmhouse that his family had to leave when he was three. No amount of later wandering in the Blue Ridge mountains can bring him back to that beloved place.
Finally, after the beleaguered Chlo has safeguarded her child from the claims of a biological father who neglects him and the current husband she is divorcing, she is able to create the award-winning project.
This book has it all—as well it might in 27 chapters and packed pages.