In the Fields tells the emotional, captivating and heartwrenching story of Caroline’s teen years as she fights against adversity and her own personal tragedies. I couldn’t put it down and, yet, I didn’t want it to end.
I just finished this book 5 minutes ago and had to write down my thoughts immediately. It’s not often that I feel so connected and emotionally invested in the characters. I felt the moments of happiness, every heartbreak and all the anger that Caroline Carson and Isaiah Washington felt. I felt in my core.
In the Fields is set in the deep south in the 1970s where the color of your skin matters and dictates who you can and cannot be seen with and who you are allowed to love. Fifteen year-old Caroline Carson is wise beyond her years and chooses to see past the skin color, despite being raised amongst such hatred. She sees what’s inside the person. She saw beauty and love in Isaiah Washington’s heart and he saw the same in hers. The only problem is that Isaiah isn’t white. Caroline and Isaiah’s love for each other was so sweet and delicate yet passionate and deep. I was struck by how strong and connected these two were at such a young age.
“He is the most beautiful person I have ever seen.”
I am a self-proclaimed addict of forbidden love stories and I ate this one up. But the forbidden love was not the only antagonist of this story. So many things happened to Caroline and in such a small amount of time. It tore my heart to shreds.
From the beginning, it’s clear that Caroline’s family life is far from perfect. She’s the daughter of two absent parents. She’s more grown-up than both of them. Every morning she makes breakfast for THEM and iron’s her mother clothes before her mom goes to work. Her father is a drunk and married to the bottle. Her ex-pagent queen mother is too self-absorbed to see past her nose. And while I’m on the subject of her mother, Jenny (I can’t say her name with sneering), she is one of my most hated characters in a book ever. I could devote the whole review on how much I hate her, but, quite frankly, she’s not worth the words. She is a pebble in my shoe. Suffice it to say that she says and does some of the worst things a mother could ever say or do to her child. And she does it without regret and without apology. I was truly disgusted and shaking with anger at her behavior and lack of love towards her child. Check out my Goodreads statuses.
Caroline has so many things on her plate. She can’t be with Isaiah and her family problems only get worse. Her dad leaves town without saying goodbye and her mother soon does the same thing.
“Momma doesn’t come home. I never talk to Isaiah. I miss my daddy. I’m fifteen years old.”
Left to fend for herself, Caroline decides to get a job at the local diner so that she can afford to live. It’s there that she meets Ruby, the cook. Ruby is a kind and gentle woman. She shows more love and compassion towards Caroline than anyone has in her life. Ruby was like the mother Caroline never had. As a reader, I wanted to reach through my Kindle and hug Ruby for being there for Caroline.
Tragedy strikes and Caroline’s mother (yes she comes back) decides that it’s best if they get out of town for awhile. Of course, her mother’s decision is based on saving her reputation rather being based on what’s best for Caroline. Caroline is devastated to leave behind Ruby, who’s become like family, and Isaiah, her boyfriend. I was panicking alongside Caroline as she was being forced out of town. The remainder of In the Fields is Caroline’s story to tell. You must read to find out what happens.
I am in awe at how strong and resilient Caroline was. When something knocked her down she got right back and kept on fighting. Her resolve and determination is admirable, and I was inspired by her. What was done to her was abhorrent and a true nightmare, yet she came out stronger on the other side. Most of this was due to the fact that she had an amazing support system – no not in her family – but, rather the angels she met along the way.
“I never thought I’d find my place. Ever. I expected to always feel misplaced. On the outside. Wishing for more. Never having normalcy. Each day is a new revelation. This is what it’s like to be open. This is what it’s like to be young. This is how life is supposed to be.”
Isaiah. There is so much to be said about him. Like Caroline, Isaiah is an old soul. He writes her poetry to show his affection. He knew what he wanted at a young age. He knew he wanted Caroline to be with him. Forever. He was willing to do just about anything to make that dream a reality. Normally, this sort of declaration among teenagers would bother me as a reader, but Willow Aster made me see past my normal book pet peeves in this one – on more than one account. I could feel the love emanating out of my Kindle. No, really, I could. I was rooting for them to be together, despite the backdrop of hate.
“I’m gonna make you laugh every day as long as you let me.”
Willow Aster’s writing is lyrical, poetic, and flowed right into my heart. I have to confess that I had not read True
Love Story, not because I didn’t want to – I simply haven’t had the time. But after reading In the Fields, I want to read everything Aster writes. She is a must read author for me. I was blown away by how absolutely breathtaking this story was. I was truly touched. Aster has a way of pulling you in and making you a part of the story. Aster painted the picture of small-town deep South Tulma perfectly. As someone who did not grow up when racism was so prevalent, I only know what I learned in history class. Aster did a fantastic job at making the reader see what Caroline and Isaiah were up against in racist-laden Tulma, Tennessee.
Most of all I loved Caroline’s colorful voice. Her story was peppered with Southern charm and idioms that had me laughing at loud at times. She didn’t call her grandma “grandma.” Instead, she called her “Nellie.” I just loved all of the little Sothernisms that were thrown in there.
“A lady came in the diner last week and she was a petite little thing and her pregnant belly looked like it went right up to her neck, like she was choking with baby.”
“A pie from Miss Sue will make your taste buds get up and dance. She makes the best pies in the South. I can’t prove this for a fact, since I’ve never been anywhere else, but it’s just something I know is true.”
“They look good enough for Jesus.”
What truly made this book so special were the secondary characters – Dr. Harrison, Ruby, Davis, Dan, Mrs. Greener, Sadie, and Miss Sue were all well-developed and multidimensional. I felt like I knew each and every one of them. Each character was distinct and had their own voice and personality.
In the Fields is one of the most beautiful and touching stories I have read this year. I highly recommend that you pick In the Fields up immediately. It’s is not your typical romance and that’s why I like it. Like Caroline says, I was “filled up to my toes with all the goodness.”
Willow Aster is giving away an iPad, a signed copy of In the Fields, and an ecopy of In the Fields.