A Promising Life review by ongsai
A Promising Life: Coming of Age with America: A Novel
by Emily Arnold Mccully
Age Range - 12 and up
Genre - Adventure

Student Review

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Age at time of review - 16
Reviewer's Location - Corning, NY, United States
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The story of Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, son of Sacagewea, is almost non-existent. Until now. In Ms. McCully's reproduction of his story, she gives him the ambition of a scholar, the confusion of a child, and a crockpot of questions. With Native American blood that runs in his veins, Baptiste must find his way through a childhood in St. Louis and an adolescence in Germany. Throughout his life he tries to figure out why the world must be so focused on divisions when they are trying to promote progression and democracy. However, he is caught in the gray area because his patron is none other than William Clark. He learns, he loves, he grows up and becomes a man.

Opinion: 

As historical fiction books go, I enjoyed this one. I was first intrigued to read it mainly because it was about Sacagawea's son, but I was surprised to find out that not much is actually known about his life and that Baptiste's story is built around the history of the times. It was a nice touch in the story when Baptiste eventually discovered the art of keeping a personal journal. I enjoyed reading some of his thoughts in "journal entry form."

I was impressed with how Ms. McCully was able to compress almost 20 years of his life within 200-300 some pages. I enjoyed following his progress through education, especially given his mixed blood heritage (French and Native American) and how he had Clark as a patron and a prestigious businessman as his godfather. It really hurt to read how he was treated throughout the book, but it was good thing because the writing made me feel empathy. It wasn't the traditional physical beatings but more the feeling of being lost and abandoned and twisted to and fro between ideologies.

Baptiste posed a lot of questions that are still being asked today, which I can appreciate, especially the ones toward racial divides. My only qualm with the book was that because it was so compressed, certain details were lost, such as more secondary character development and circumstance/setting descriptions, but it was still a great book. I would recommend this to others who enjoy historical fiction books. 

Rating:
4
Content Rating:

Content rating - nothing offensive
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