Beulah Land

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 18 Nov 2017

Member Reviews

*~~*ARC kindly provided to me for an honest review *~~*

- Review to come

Review originally posted on my blog with added content on Mikku-chan / A world full of words
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A disappointingly bleak look at the life of a lesbian teen. Didn't feel particularly original and, in fact, reminded me of books from 20 or 30 years ago on the subject.
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3.5 stars

Violette wants nothing more than to graduate high school and become a vet, but being gay in the Ozarks might just be the death of her. When a local redneck threatens her life and that of her mother and sister, Vi takes matters into her own hands to figure out what is going on. Between death threats, homophobia and dog fights, Vi has a lot to handle.

I was certain this would be a DNF right up until the 25% mark. It launches right into the story, with little context or explanations of what is going on, why people dislike Vi, why this rando dude is threatening to kill her, and the conversations between characters are stilted, unnatural and filled with non sequitors. Plus there are a number of things that I'm hoping were cleaned up in final edits.

The last three-quarters of the book pick up quickly, leading Vi onto a mystery to solve why the random dude wants her dead and how he and his friend are connected to the highly illegal dogfights. It's a vivid take on mountain life in a dirt-poor small town rife with homophobia and religion...and how family can still love each other even if they don't really accept each other. And Vi—despite being impulsive and rash throughout most of the book—is brave and willing to stand up for what she thinks is right.

I received this ARC from NetGalley for an honest review.
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Dnf 25%

So part of this DNF is a mix of its me and its the book. I unfortunately didnt pay attention enough to the warnings on Netgalley. I do not enjoy queer suffering books very well. I also didnt realize that this is not in fact a romance but coming of age loosely based on the authors lebsian cousin who died. I am thankful for the warning and tags for the chapters at the beginning of the book and I truly tried but the homophobia combined with first person  writing style was to much for me. I cannot continue for the sake of my own mindset.
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DNF at 33%. 

This book is very hard to read - the author even acknowledges as such in her author's note at the beginning of the book. 

I really tried to read this book - especially after I read the sad author's note - but I couldn't get past the overt, descriptive violence against women and the cruel homophobia. These issues are, of course, part of the plot of Beulah Land, and issues that are rampant across America (and the world) today, but I couldn't bring myself to continue reading it. It made me unfordable, which was the point, but more than that it made me feel sick, anxious, and panicky. 

I read up to chapter 14, and even I can tell that Violet is an interesting character. Maybe one day I might feel compelled to finish this book again, and it will probably be because of Violet. 

I do appreciate that Nancy Stewart wrote a novel like this, but I especially appreciate that she included trigger warnings at the beginning of the novel, which had the corresponding chapter numbers in the warnings. 

I think Beulah Land is an important novel, but unfortunately it's one that I just can't read because it hurts too much.
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This was a very difficult read--I might describe it as "Winter's Bone for lesbians"--but I think an important one as well.  Although it depicts deep poverty and the struggle of its gay protagonist to not just survive, but find a life worth living despite the repressive norms of her community, it is not a story without hope.  The poor, rural community is depicted with compassion and nuance, not painted as a backwards caricature.  Characters who initially appear unsympathetic are allowed their touches of humanity, and the story ends with a hopeful note for the future. I was pleasantly surprised by this hopefulness.  It is unfortunately common for non-LGBT authors to write about homophobia and cissexism in graphic detail without providing their protagonists sufficient relief: I thought that Stewart handled the balance between struggle and comfort nicely.
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Hey Guys! I am so excited to talk to you about Beulah Land... Wow. This book is fantastic, heartrending, and poignant. The harsh cultural and physical reality for the Ozarks is a charming, and yet sinister, backdrop to this not-so-classic bildungsroman. 

Beulah Land follows Vi Sinclair and her best friend, Junior, in the wake of Violette's social outcast. After being caught with another girl, the town feels alternately unempathetic, digusted, or accepting towards her in turns. 

Vi works for the town vet, stalked by her tormentor Dale Woodbine. When his insults evolve into threats towards her family, Violette has to navigate the hostility of her town, fight a dog-fighting ring, and find justice in system of nepotism and family rivalry. 

Beulah Land is a chaos of violence, cruelty, and prejudice. Yet, this story is unerringly, ironically beautiful. It is the story of Violette's resilience towards a landscape that treats her as a puzzle and a problem. 

Violette, as a character, is representative of the curiousity and drive of young women. In the face of all odds, she wages a one-woman war against injustice in her society. Whether she is saving herself, her family, or the victims of animal abuse, she treats insurmountable odds as puzzles. 

Stewart has taken a snapshot of human evil and found beauty in it somehow. Violette's is found in her strength. The beauty of the Ozarks lies in the complicated life that has survived there through brute perseverance. 

I give this book a 5/5.

Its social gravity, lyrical writing, and its developed characters make Beulah Land an unforgettable read. Don't miss it. 

I leave you with the sentiment that books have a crazy power to teach us things. A lesbian resident of the Ozarks may be a far cry from how you live your life, but Violette's story has the same themes of hardship and perseverance that we can all relate to and benefit from remembering. 

(This review will go live on our blog on Tuesday. )
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