A Family Saga

A Goddess Among Men by Daniel Davidsohn

From the Publisher: “

In 1907, Julian Welch and Alan Reid meet by chance in the jungles of the Amazon attracted by the riches of the rubber boom. Pioneers in an era of uncertainty, they form an unlikely alliance and establish the foundation for a successful empire, Reid & Welch. However, with Julian’s death, the empire is left to Alan, as is the responsibility for Julian’s newborn daughter, Christel.

Yet for Christel, there’s no growing up as a privileged heiress. Instead, Alan subjects her to a life few endure, much less overcome. Through her will to survive and being as uncompromising as she is beautiful, Christel puts the horrors of her past behind her and begins to build a seemingly bright future. But when the success built on corruption starts to crumble, Christel will be forced to address the past or pay for the sins of the fathers.”

I struggled to review this one a bit. While it was ostensibly a family saga covering three generations, there was so much else going on in this book. The story begins with a tenuous relationship between two men as they become business partners, then follows the next two generations of one of the partners with the other one as an ever-present entity.

In the beginning, there were two men who had each traveled to Brazil to find their fortunes. I found these parts enlightening. I do not know much about the rubber boon in Brazil and learned a little bit about this. Mostly, I learned about how underhanded and greedy people have been for a long time. Throughout this part, I did not understand why Julian continued to be involved with Reid.

Part two took a strange turn. Part of me wishes we went deeper into the seedy sides of this part. Julian asking Reid to take his daughter was dumb, and what Reid immediately did was insane. This part was certainly more episodic than part one. We got a hint of the terribleness that was happening, but there was a lot of insinuation. Not that I want to see anyone hurt or sexually abused in detail, but the idea that we need to believe the science experiments taking place are the worst ever, we may need to see more. Maybe it doesn’t have to happen to Christel, but we can see some of the experimentation for the other children involved.

The third part felt the most episodic and rushed. This happened and then that happened and then this happened with some loose narration between scenes. In some ways this worked, but in many ways it made me feel there were more questions than answers. I never felt emotional connection with any of the characters, but I thought several of the things encountered could have been more deeply examined.

At the end of the day, I did enjoy this story. I can recommend it without too many reservations and hope that others will find the storylines original and thought-provoking, even if they are a bit brief.

Thank you to NetGalley for a free review copy. All thoughts presented here are my own.

View all my reviews

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