“I’m giving The Cutting Season all but the highest rating. Not necessarily because I believe it has approached a literary masterpiece, but because I believe in the genius of the author for two specific reasons: it is evidenced in her literary voice, and, more personally, it helped me to weather through my own storms during the time that I was reading it.
Locke’s second novel (and I am eager to read the first now) is sort of a post-postmodern look at the issue of the history of slavery in America through the meta-lens of a murder mystery set in a modern day historical preservation site, a refurbished plantation wherein tours are given. Locke’s cast of characters offers a unique, lively, multidimensional set of personalities reminiscent of a Balzac tale. The drama is infused with the mystery in a sophisticated manner that doesn't pander to either. My feeling, however, is that a person of color, and that I personally being an African American in particular would extract a meaning from the content which must be derivative of a narrative voice that only such a person could discern. I am referring to a level of cognitive intimacy that is directly linked to the experience of race in America. I wonder if such a thing would be true in the reverse, and if my sincere enjoyment of works from an array of authors from all around the globe is perennially confined to a secondary or even tertiary degree of cognitive proximity. It seems so much is lost in translation.
At any rate, the same claim about ethnic/textual intimacy could be said about reading, as a person of color, works from Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Jamaica Kincaid, Alex Haley, Chinua Achebe, and so on and so forth. I’ve recently heard Locke compared to authors of this caliber, but Locke is not any of these authors; she has her own distinct voice. I congratulate her, for I think she has the potential to be remembered amongst their ranks, I truly do. She has given us, with The Cutting Season, a novel that moves with the pace of mystery, but with the deep emotive quality of a serious work of literature. This lucid symbiosis in itself is part of the spirit of literary innovation. I would fervently disagree with all those critics that scoff at this exciting quality of her work by simply boxing it into a category of “the cinematic”. I say shame on these critics for passing off their own inability to recognize literary prowess and, further, mistake it for a deficiency. Admittedly, the author has not reached her pinnacle, but her renaissance is a quiet revolution. The political depth of the mystery which is uncurtained chapter by chapter by Locke lies not in the story’s plot turns—and note that this aspect of the book has also been criticized as being predictable (although I thought it was convoluted enough to hold my attention)—the depth, in my view, truly resides in the multifaceted web of socioeconomic and ethnic networks that are interwoven into the simplicity of a dead body found on a plantation. Still, there are no politics being shoved down the reader’s throat here. This book has spoken to the hidden reaches of my soul. It is a marvelous read and that’s my final word on it.
“My rating of THE CUTTING SEASON was a toss up between 3 and 4; I gave it a 4 because of the historical content regarding plantations and the emotional study of the descendants of slaves. It is difficult for people to understand the depth of connections that these descendants face, and this book brings that history of our country to light.
The story line of this book is a murder that occurs at a plantation near New Orleans that is set up as a tourist attraction. It was interesting, but the person who eventually is discovered to have committed the crime just doesn't fit - I can't figure out why this person would have done it! Also, the main character (Caren) has a daughter who is 9 and lives on the plantation, as Caren is the caretaker there. I think the storyline for the daughter, Morgan, would have worked a little better if she was a little older.
All in all a good read. I enjoy the style of this author.”
“This audiobook was thoroughly disappointing in virtually every element: plot, characters, setting and narration.”Max E wrote this review Tuesday, February 26, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Enjoyed the juxtaposition of the modern day plantation Belle Vie and its history. Caren Gray was struggling with raising her daughter Morgan, running the historical Belle Vie as a tourist attraction and her pain over her alienation with her mother. The murder of a cane field worker adds to her burden as she strives to prove her employee Donovan's innocence. ”Mary M wrote this review Thursday, February 21, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“One of the best mysteries and informative commentaries on the remnants of slavery and the work-force that participated in sugar harvesting. I really enjoyed the background on sugar caning and the history of the relative of the main character, CARAN. I would recommend this book for those who enjoy many faceted mysteries with historical aspects.”margaret wrote this review Tuesday, February 19, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I love a good whodunnit. I was intrigued by the mystery within a mystery concept of this book. I may have liked it even more if the narrative went back and forth following the two connected storylines, alternating between the present and slave days, with no need to do so via time travel the way Octavia Butler wonderfully managed it in Kindred. The fact that Attica Locke sticks to a single setting is by no means a flaw, and like Octavia, Attica is an excellent writer. That said, I can't say that I was blown away by this novel. I was throughly sucked in to the story, but emerged from it wishing there had been a little more. A little more of what I'm not quite sure. Plausibility perhaps. Things wrapped themselves up a bit too neatly and swiftly for my liking. My favorite type of mystery is the kind that's solved due to brilliant deductive reasoning rather than things (like drunken confessions) falling into one's lap. I especially like when I'm given the same clues and information as the character(s) trying to solve the crime, so I have at least a fighting chance at figuring it out on my own. Deciphering between misleading and critical details is my favorite part of reading a mystery if the author plays fair. I found The Cutting Season to be no better than average in my personal scale of judging a whodunnit, but the quality of writing and depth of characterization was excellent, so I'll certainly give other books by Attica Locke a shot and I would not hesitate to recommend this one. What's a 3-star book to me may be a 5-star book to you, and vice versa.
“3.5”Tiffany P wrote this review Tuesday, January 22, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Wonderful read! Attica Locke is a captivating storyteller. In this book, there are two stories told and both eloquently voiced. The historical story is another glimpse into the wrongs of American history and the present story of how history repeats itself. Along with the main stories, the interlocking events of human drama, love, loyalty and relationships play out to a finale of 'life goes on', 'some things never change' and 'the truth always comes out'.”Love Black Fiction wrote this review Monday, January 21, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
HarperCollins Publishers|September 10, 2012|Hardcover|ISBN: 978-0-06-220146-1
In The Cutting Season, a riveting thriller intertwines two murders separated across more than a century.
Caren Gray manages Belle Vie, a sprawling antebellum plantation that sits between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, where the past and the present coexist uneasily. The estate’s owners have turned the place into an eerie tourist attraction, complete with full-dress re-enactments and carefully restored slave quarters. Outside the gates, a corporation with ambitious plans has been busy snapping up land from struggling families who have been growing sugar can for generations, and now replacing local employees with illegal laborers. Tensions mount when the body of a female migrant worker is found in a shallow grave on the edge of the property, her throat cut clean.
As the investigation gets under way, the list of suspects grows. But when fresh evidence comes to light and the sheriff’s department zeros in on a person of interest, Caren has a bad feeling that the police are chasing the wrong leads. Putting herself at risk, she ventures into dangerous territory as she unearths startling new facts about a very old mystery-the-long-ago disappearance of a former slave – that has unsettling ties to the current murder. In pursuit of the truth about Belle Vie’s history and her own, Caren discovers secrets about both cases – ones that an increasingly desperate killer will stop at nothing to keep buried.
Taut, hauntingly resonant, and beautifully written, The Cutting Season is at once a thoughtful meditation on how America reckons its past with its future, and a high-octane page-turner that unfolds with tremendous skill and vision. With her rare gift for depicting human nature in all its complexities, Attica Locke demonstrates once again that she is “destined for literary stardom” (Dallas Morning News).
For some reason, try as I might, I just couldn’t get into this story at all. I attempted it three different times but it just didn’t pique my interest or hold my attention. I’d heard so much about this novel and was looking forward to reading it so much that perhaps I set my expectations too high. Therefore I will leave you without a review. I’m sure someone out there will just love this book!
“I enjoyed Locke's first mystery, "Black Water Rising," and this one even more. It combines a mystery with a novel about marriage and family and about ancestry. Caren Gray is the manager of Belle Vie, an antebellum Louisiana plantation that's been restored and made into a sot of "historical theme park." One of the main activities at Belle Vie is a play about life on the plantation before the Civil War. Caren hates the play, with its stereotyped slave and master characters. Nevertheless, it's a job, with perks such as tuition to a top-notch school for her daughter Morgan. Acres of cane fields adjoin Belle Vie, and when a migrant worker is found murdered inside the plantation gates, Caren and everyone connected with Belle Vie is suspect. The murder troubles Caren for another reason. Her great-great-great grandfather Jason, a slave at Belle Vie who stayed on as a paid cane cutter after Emancipation, who disappeared one day without explanation. Caren starts to look more closely into her family's past connections with the plantation. Caren starts to Locke has adroitly combined a fascinating story from 19th century history with a suspenseful thriller. ”Suzanne F wrote this review Sunday, December 30, 2012. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No