2013/09/07 by rmstrong1980
I am a fan of history and historical fictions. I also like mysteries. I was intrigued at the synapsis of this “history-mystery.” When done well, the combination can be amazing, it can keep you on the edge of your seat and keep you riveted to the page or the screen.
The story of The 15th Star is a compelling one. Borrowing her plot lines from history, Ms. Grace brings together truths and fiction to weave together a story spanning two centuries. When Grace Wisher, a slave girl on a cotton plantation in the South, is told that she has to allow one of the white men on the plantation to impregnate her, runs away. She, unlike most slaves, is able to make a clean break and runs to Baltimore, where she soon finds herself the indentured worker of Mary Pickersgill, a flag and banner maker. When delivering the Star-Spangled Banner made famous in Francis Scott Key’s poem written during the War of 1812, Grace befriends Mrs. Louisa Armistead, who promises to help Grace learn to read and write. Their correspondence is later saved.
It is this correspondence that is the glue that holds the past to the present. In the present day, Keiko—a grad student working at the Smithsonian—comes across an intriguing letter in papers of Mrs. Armistead’s donated to the museum. Intrigued by the mention of a star from the Armistead Flag, she goes on a whirlwind adventure with a new friend. Who knows what the next 24 hours will hold?
The book head-jumps quite often, though that type of storytelling does not bother me as much as it does others. Most of the jumps are in between chapter breaks, though there are a few rather abrupt ones when the present-day male and female lead characters are together.
The plot’s bones are strong and the flesh of the story is strong in most places. There are, as with any book, some places where you have to roll your eyes. There are some issues with the present-day antagonist’s motivation. There are a few connections between different characters that are somewhat unbelievable, and the chapter titles are not consistent (some are dates, some are locations, some are phrases). It is also an interesting editorial choice to use the term “Indian” where most present-day institutions use “Native American,” or “First Peoples.”
All in all, though, it was a pleasant read, especially after the latest updates which resolved editorial and formatting issues present in the first edition.