Plot/Idea: Ellis River is a moving story of determination and grit that will captivate readers. Ehrlich is a skillful guide, transporting readers through Ellis's twists and turns, unexpected challenges, and celebrations alike.
Prose: Ehrlich is a gifted, masterful writer, and this is a beautifully composed work. Although not done in verse, the prose is soothing and almost lyrical at times.
Originality: Ellis River is exceptionally unique, with a memorable hero and distinctive plot that will imprint on readers' memories.
Character Development/Execution: Ellis is an affable hero, and her situation will soften even the the most hard-hearted readers. She comes alive in her actions and dialogue, and the others she encounters on her journey are well defined, with fully realized character arcs.
Date Submitted: August 17, 2022
Ellis River teems with well-drawn characters and vibrant wilderness settings. A memorable proto-feminist protagonist, Ellis strives not just to reunite her family but to carve out a meaningful life. She dresses as a man for convenience and safety, finding riding easier, understanding that men enjoy greater freedom, and recognizing that, this way, “another life might be rolled out for her.” Touchingly, she notes “I feel more comfortable, more…natural.” Other characters play strong secondary roles, especially Libby, the Black Native American woman who becomes a role model, and Billie, Ellis’s feisty horse. While the search and these issues of identity resonate, the plot is quiet and unhurried.
Ever since her mother gave her a leather-bound notebook, Ellis has kept a diary, and she relates some of the story through her journal entries and letters to her father. This leads to some unneeded exposition and repetition, as when Ellis summarizes in epistolary form what readers have already witnessed, but also lays bare the character’s heart and showcases Ehrlich’s sure-handed period language as she brings life to perspectives too often unexplored in narratives of the era, with empathy, insight, a touch of romance, and a suggestion of a sexual awakening near the end.
Takeaway:As the Civil War ends, a young woman and her horse leave home in search of missing family.
Great for fans of: Robin Oliveira, Charles Frazier.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A