“From the first time I saw her, I loved her… I won’t ever feel that way about anyone else. Ever.”
In The Fields was a truly beautiful, poignant story of a forbidden love that survived even the harshest prejudice. It filled me with emotion, broke my heart and then pieced it back together.
I’m always looking for books with unique stories so when I found out that this one took place in 1971, I was already intrigued since none of the books I’ve reviewed have taken place during that time, but then I found that it was also a forbidden romance and I was just completely sold. I love when a book catches me by surprise and takes me on a journey I’ve never been on before and that is exactly what this book did.
The set up of the story is this: In the year of 1971, in the small, backward town of Tulma, Tennessee, Caroline Carson fell in love with a black man. Isaiah Washington had her heart from the moment they met. Unfortunately, they lived at a time and in a place when their feelings and love was entirely unaccepted by both society and their families forcing them to keep their relationship a secret.
“We’re very careful not to get caught. She would never approve of me loving a black boy.”
On top of this, Caroline’s home life also deteriorated fast when her drunken father stopped coming home. Soon after, her mother abandoned her too leaving her to fend for herself. Alone and scared, Caroline learned to survive but couldn’t bring herself to tell anyone of what she was going through.
But an unwatched young girl made for an easy target and when a horrible tragedy befell her, she was forced to leave town — needing to get away from the painful memories and ever-present judgment from the townfolk but also leaving behind the one person she loved more than anything else in the world.
Alone once again, forged a life for herself — created something beautiful out of nothing, surrounded herself with people who loved and understoond her situation, but she never forgot the love she left behind…
“I’ve never loved anyone or anything as much as I love him. I try to memorize the way he looks at me. The way his lips tilt up when they see me. The way his eyes crinkle when he laughs at something I saw. The way his eyes turn a shade darker when he cried. I will love him until the day I die. I know this.”
For fear of spoilers, I don’t want to give too much more detail here. But you should be warned that there is a rape scene in this book. It is not graphic but you are aware of what is going on and it does serve as a very pivotal turning point in the story.
I really have to say that Caroline’s parents infuriated me! They were just sickeningly awful! Abuse doesn’t only come through offensive actions, neglect can be just as strong, and my heart just went out to Caroline as she was slowly abandoned by the two people who should have always been there to support her.
But she was such a strong girl. She had an innocent naivety that came with being a 15 year old but she was smart, capable and adapted quickly – learning to survive where others might just have given up. Life literally threw every possible obstacle in front of her and as hard as it was, as painful as it was, she got through it all and created a new life for herself, made friends, found work, nursed her broken heart, and found a way to live.
It broke my heart to see two people torn apart for no other reason than because their love would not be accepted in public. It was so saddening knowing that this same story happened to countless couples only a few decades ago and to be reminded of the suffering brought on by some people’s prejudice and ignorance.
“I wish you were mine, but you’re not and you never will be. There is nowhere we could go that would accept us.”
Most of the story is told from Caroline’s point of view although we do get a few chapters throughout the book that give Isaiah’s side of the story and help keep us connected to him even during their separation.
There were moments in the book that broke my heart and others that made it overflow with happiness. Even in this world that didn’t accept her, she found some people who did. One of the concepts in life that I love most is that family is not only found through blood, but can also be found in the people you love most and who love you back just as strongly and this book highlighted that so beautifully. As much as it hurt that she was away from Isaiah, I have to say that I loved the life she’d made for herself in her new town. She’d surrounded herself by real friends, ones who understood that love is “color-blind”.
The story took me by surprise several times. There were several times where I fell into the swing of things and began to get comfortable but it then often took a turn I wasn’t expecting and I really liked that. I found the first half to be a little slow even though it did keep me interested, but it was the second half that truly grabbed my heart. The emotion!!!! This book made me feel over and over again. I read so many scenes with my hand right over my heart just drinking it in.
“Our love is like air and we need each other to breathe.”
In The Fields told a painful and hopeful story about survival and bravery in the face of extreme prejudice. It leaves you in a wonderful place knowing that love prevailed over all the injustices thrown at it. The greater message it conveys does not only apply to racism but also to the effects of all forms of bullying. This was also my first book by Willow Aster and I have to say, I’m a big fan of her writing now – its evocative and makes you feel like you’re right there with the characters. I’d say that this would be a great book for fans of second chance/forbidden romance who want to try something really different 🙂
Rating-wise, I ranged from 4 stars in some places to a full 5 stars in many others so I’m going to round it off to 4.5 stars overall.
This is a standalone.