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Review by Suze
It's the summer of 1923 and the killer of Hanalee's father has been released from prison because of good behavior. Hanalee is the child of a white mother and an Afro-American father, an unusual situation for that time. Her father was hit by a car and died not much later. Joe is the guilty party and now that he's back in her hometown Hanalee can have her revenge. However, he has a story to tell her. Her father was still alive when Joe left him with the doctor. That doctor is now Hanalee's stepfather. Hanalee doesn't completely trust Joe, but she has her doubts about what happened that night to her father and she has to find out the truth.
Hanalee's village in Oregon is under the influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Even one of her best childhood friends has become hostile under their influence. Hanalee is afraid they will do something to Joe, but she also has to fear for herself because of the color of her skin. There's so much she wants to achieve, but everything is a battle. She has to find out what happened to her father. His ghost is wandering around and he needs to go peacefully. When she unravels the mystery she's becoming involved in something horrible that will leave its mark forever.
The Steep and Thorny Way is an impressive story. Hanalee lives in constant stress and fear. It must have been extremely tough to feel unsafe all the time. It broke my heart to read what she and the people she loved had to endure. Cat Winters has written a beautiful, impressive and honest story. She writes about a difficult topic in a sensitive way and I liked that very much. Hanalee is smart, strong and resilient. She has dreams and she wants to make them come true. I loved that about her. She's an amazing girl. She loves with all her heart and she stands up for those who are close to her no matter what the consequences are. She's extremely brave. Hate is an awful thing and I had a hard time reading about it. At the same time I think this is a story that had to be told and that has to be read.
The Steep and Thorny Way is filled with decorations and photos. The photos show you what people looked like in those days. It creates a certain atmosphere that makes the story even better. I think Cat Winters is a brilliant storyteller. She writes about good and evil in such a compelling way. The supernatural aspect, the wandering ghost, adds an extra layer of depth to the story. It's creepy, but fitting at the same time. Everything comes together in a shocking situation and I read that part with tears in my eyes. I loved this moving novel and think it's a definite must-read.