cover image Even As We Breathe

Even As We Breathe

Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle. Univ. of Kentucky, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-950564-06-4

Clapsaddle’s lush debut thrusts 19-year-old Cowney Sequoyah into WWII intrigue. In 1942, Cowney leaves his home on the Cherokee reservation in North Carolina for a groundskeeping job at Asheville’s Grove Park Inn and Resort, which is being used by the government to intern enemy diplomats and their families. On the grounds, he uncovers a mysterious, human-looking bone, which he shows only to fellow Cherokee Essie Stomper, whom he falls for. Essie doesn’t share Cowney’s feelings, however, and embarks on a forbidden affair with Andrea, an Italian “guest.” Meanwhile, Cowney keeps quiet with his family about his doubts over the sketchy details shared with him about his father’s death by the Germans following Armistice Day. After a diplomat’s young child goes missing, and Essie, sure Cowney told their boss about her relationship with Andrea, tells the soldiers guarding the resort about the bone Cowney has been holding onto. A colonel confiscates the bone, which he takes to be a sign of Cowney’s evil nature and casts him under suspicion (“I know you people do all kinds of godforsaken things”). The clear, crisp prose hums consistently as the intricate story easily moves along and new details about Cowney’s family’s past emerge. Both an astonishing addition to WWII and Native American literature, this novel sings on every level. (Sept.)