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And She Was by Cindy Dyson

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Review Excerpts

The State (SC) – April 23, 2006
“Remarkable… And She Was conquers the odds to be the beautifully written, soulfully instructive novel that it is… It all works — and fabulously well. [Dyson] weaves together a centuries-long story of Aleutian women who break taboos cultural and social to protect their children and their recorded history, a history that includes famine, Russian rampages, tuberculosis, smallpox, forced labor, World War II bombing… Dyson leaves judgment to the reader, swayed by immersion in her stories of then and now and her history of a powerful and powerfully strange place.”
-- Claudia Smith Brinson

The Birmingham News – March 19, 2006
“Real is an apt description for this book… Little wonder, since Dyson relied on her own experiences as a barmaid there to give this book a firm sense of authenticity… At once intimate and epic, the story is told by various voices, the haunted Aleut women and the smart, smart-mouthed waitress, across time and place. But the parts are woven together as gracefully as an Aleut grass basket… A fascinating, well-written book unlike anything I've read in quite a while.”
-- Susan Swagler

The Denver Post – March 5, 2006
“Dyson packages thought-provoking content in a wonderfully readable form. She evokes the island's harsh beauty and unceasing winds. It would be easy, and less effective, to allow her central characters to become brave and unfortunate stereotypes; hers are real people facing hard dilemmas… The resulting novel is far more complex than it first appears, and its impact sneaks up on the reader. What starts out feeling like a light story ends up packing a walloping punch.”
-- Robin Vidimos

Anchorage Daily News – February 26, 2006
“Beautiful debut novel… interesting and heartbreaking… Few writers have had the nerve to use Alaska Native culture as a realistic plot device, which necessitates an unflinching look at that culture. Brandy is also an original creation. Today's bookshelves are bulging with bad girls but not multifaceted ones who can expound upon ancient Roman history… The soul-at-stake plot, the historical weavings and Dyson's mastery of language, for both scene setting and dialogue, make for a big, riveting, sometimes explosive, necessary read.”
-- Amanda Coyne

Anchorage Press – February 23, 2006
“Spectacular debut novel… With a plot that interweaves Aleut history… with the Dutch Harbor of the go-go '80s, Dyson's book is far richer than most chick lit. The interplay between past and present seems natural and the dialogue rings true. Dyson's characterizations sweep the reader into a dozen lives… Dyson gives Brandy a nascent emotional maturity and a vulnerability that lurks just beneath the surface… The result is spectacular fiction, firmly rooted in fact. It's also a hell of a story. I found myself thinking about Dyson's book for days.”
-- Lynne Snifka

New West – February 22, 2006
“The new novel by Montana author Cindy Dyson, And She Was... has at its tent pole core the abracadabra vibrancy of an utterly real heroine, Brandy… Dyson has created a character of improbable and artful complexity… Thematically, her chapters complement each other like teeth into gears… More often than not you come to your novels wanting simple, utilitarian distraction… And She Was provides entertainment in spades. And yet, there’s art in the distraction. Moments of poignancy, slices of the human condition, brief bouquets of prose. Like it’s heroine, it’s a novel tough enough to hang around for a while.”
-- Allen M. Jones

Los Angeles Times – February 19, 2006
“Cindy Dyson, part cocktail waitress, part Arctic explorer, grew up in Alaska. Her rough, working-class voice is perfect for a novel set in Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians, a ‘reckless, shameless place’ populated by fishermen and Aleuts. The narrator, Brandy... begins as not much more than a pretty girl and ends up acquiring a substantial character, empowered, in part, by the ghosts of Aleut women.”
-- Susan Salter Reynolds

Portland Tribune – February 17, 2006
“The book gets under your skin… It’s a disquieting look at the troubled history of the Aleutian Islands sandwiched with one woman’s uncertain attempt to change her life. Dyson has a distinct flair with language, and the two stories she dovetails are intricate and absorbing… Dyson has created such a mesmerizing group of female characters that it’s disappointing to bid them farewell. Like the song the book is named after, it’s tough to get these women out of your head.”
-- Ellison G. Weist

Entertainment Weekly – February 17, 2006
“Talking Heads fans will recognize the title of Cindy Dyson's novel, And She Was. It not only pays homage to the band's classic tune, it's one of many retro-pop culture references sprinkled throughout this imaginative fish-out-of-water tale… Flashing back and forward in time, Dyson skillfully interconnects Brandy's eerie personal journey with the history of the region (both actual and supernatural), culminating in a ghostly lesson in self-discovery.”
-- Margeaux Watson

Missoula Independent (MT) – February 9, 2006
“Proves you can actually have a female protagonist without rehashing everything ever written by Candace Bushnell… Instead of cloying late-20s coming-of-age syndrome, Brandy’s personal conflicts become intriguing subtext, politely taking the back seat to a 200-year-old conspiracy… Dyson’s debut novel is one to read slowly and with savor. And She Was tackles age-old conflicts and personal battles in an ancient and troublesome setting. Digging in with both hands, Dyson has turned up a richly complex story that lingers.”
-- Azita Osanloo

Booklist – October 1, 2005
“In an impressive first novel that echoes Kingston’s The Woman Warrior and Proulx’s The Shipping News, the tragic conquest of a little-discussed ethnic group is filtered through an unlikely point of view... The first-person narrative alternates with chapters set in catastrophic periods of Aleut history, tracing several generations of women whose grim resolve left a daunting, bloody legacy to their daughters and granddaughters... Dyson’s talent is overwhelmingly evident in her nimble balancing of tribal perspectives and those of her canny, questing protagonist.”
-- Jennifer Mattson

Kirkus Review, September 1, 2005
“A very readable debut… Brandy works as a cocktail waitress in the town's one notorious bar... She also has a lot of time to think about her past, to retrace her own adventures-and to plan her next move. Dyson weaves in a Clan of the Cave Bear-esque subplot about survival and ancient hunting practices, the arrival of the Russians and the remarkable resilience of Aleutian women. As the two plots come together, Brandy uncovers secrets about herself and the Aleuts. It might all be too clichéd if Brandy weren't so likable and wild and her surroundings so oddly compelling.”

Library Journal (Starred Review) – August 2005
“Dyson deftly peels back the layers of Brandy’s persona to reveal the woman behind the blond hair and high-heeled boots while revealing the layers of tradition, suppression, and mystery shrouding Dutch Harbor. As the story shifts back and forth from the present day through 250 years of Aleutian history, the reader becomes immersed in Aleutian culture and the loss of that culture at the hands of Russian traders, early missionaries, social workers, and World War II relocators. [Dyson] has created an unforgettable first novel for adults. Highly recommended.”

Publishers Weekly – August 29, 2005
“Dyson expertly interlaces Brandy's story, set in 1986, with the vibrant history of the Aleuts, hundreds of years earlier. While relishing the smart prose, bawdy humor and ‘80s references, readers will find themselves rooting for the hard-as-nails blonde as she wrestles her demons and begins to redirect her fate. Dyson delivers an original and provocative first novel.”

 

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