Title: All the Wind in the World
Author: Samantha Mabry
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: October 10th 2017
Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.
When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.
– Blurb courtesy of goodreads.com
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
My Thoughts On…
Life for Sarah Jac and James is the same day in and day out. They earn a living cutting maguey on the Truth or Consequences ranch, saving every cent in the hopes that one day they’ll have enough to move back out East and run their own ranch. However when a dust storm stirs, and in trying to stop a scared and stampeding horse from trampling a man and his young son, Sarah Jac accidentally kills one of the foreman and the pair are forced to flee for their lives.
Right away I was hooked on the picture Samantha Mabry was painting in her story. Like all magical realism books I’ve read so far All the Wind in the World didn’t have a lot of background, and the story started slow as it introduced the characters and their world, but I never once felt lost or like I had missed parts of the story.
Sarah Jac and James end up at The Real Marvelous hoping their actions at Truth or Consequences haven’t followed them, but there are rumours that the land they now work is cursed. As their days continue, as Sarah Jac and James are pulled apart by their secrets, it seems that even though their past hasn’t followed them, there is more danger inside The Real Marvelous than they both realise.
This was a beautiful story, lyrical and magical like all magical realism books I’ve read so far. The way the story unfolded left me to make my own assumptions about what happens at The Real Marvelous, about the curse and the prophet and the witch. I feel like magical realism is a hard genre to get right – an author needs to be careful that they’re developing the story enough so their readers can understand what’s happening, but at the same time that they aren’t giving out too much information – but Samantha Mabry has undoubtedly told a beautiful magical realism story with this book.
Unfortunately it was the characters that knocked two stars off this review for me.
Sarah Jac is our main character, and the one whose eyes we see the story through, and I couldn’t stand her character. She’s had a hard life, she lost her entire family and after events that happened when she and James started working as ranch hands she’s been forced to harden her heart, but some of her actions in this book were so hateful I had such a hard time understanding her. Something she did near the end of this book genuinely made me hate her character, and I nearly DNF-ed the book.
It was the same thing that happened with Mabry’s debut novel, A Fierce and Subtle Poison. It was a beautiful story with incredible world building, but I couldn’t connect with the main character. Granted it wasn’t as bad with Lucas as it was with Sarah Jac, but when a story is told in first person POV and you can’t connect to the main character it’s hard to feel invested in their journey or their story.
The relationship between Sarah Jac and James was one I enjoyed reading. After what happened at the very first ranch they worked in Sarah Jac and James have been forced to hide their relationship. They pretend they’re cousins to keep themselves safe but when they get to The Real Marvelous things change for the both of them. I feel like this story would have benefited being told through James’s POV as well, All the Wind in the World was supposed to be a love story between Sarah and James but I can’t say anything about the development of James’s character because there’s nothing to say.
All the Wind in the World is set in a very interesting world. The West United States has dried up and the only work people can get is cutting maguey, the only plant that grows in the dryness, for a few cents a day. It’s a very bleak world, but the way Samantha Mabry writes it makes it seem magical as well, albeit dark and magical. There’s not much explanation behind this new world, why the West coast has been turned into a desert, but there was plenty of development to make it feel real. The lack of background didn’t bother me at all. Like with all the magical realism books I’ve read so far I quickly fell into the world and the story, and never once stopped to wonder ‘why’, just ‘what’s next’.
I thought for a long time over what I should rate this book because while I didn’t like the main character I loved the world, I loved the story, and I loved Samantha Mabry’s writing. If I’d been able to connect with Sarah Jac I would have very easily given this five stars, as is All the Wind in the World is still a wonderful magical realism book but it’s my least favourite of the ones I’ve read so far.
What did you think of All the Wind in the World? Was it a favourite of yours or could you just not get into the story? Let me know.
All quotes have been taken from an ARC and may differ in the final publication.