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MY SOUL TO KEEP Kindle Edition
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MY SOUL TO KEEP in a fine work on all levels, especially style, narrative, and the emotional involvement of reader with characters who are often governed by cultural and historical circumstances beyond their control but who mostly express a resilience and determination to fight against overwhelming odds no matter what the particular situation may be. What makes this novel stand out is its personal and historical emphasis on an era not often given its due in most fictional representations. We are all familiar with RAMONA and ZORRO but not with that lost world of Spanish California intriguingly depicted in the travel journals of Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST.
Based on very meticulous research and familiarity with archive material, Halsey paints a convincing historical canvas covering those who leave Spain and arrive in a New World hoping for a better America and discovering various obstacles before them often preventing personal fulfillment. The world before annexation with its class and social barriers as well as various flaws in the Hispanic American version of The American Dream appear in a text in which the author sketches outlines of his characters leaving readers to emphasize with personal and social dilemmas in a manner approaching an accomplished screenplay that never fills out the entire picture but leaves something for the director's (and reader's )imagination. Spanish California was an early victim of that now familiar "pre-emptive strike" that seized territory in a white American version of Manifest Destiny. It is a dark chapter in American history not often examined but swept under the carpet of conscious memory. Yet, without being didactic, Halsy depicts another version of this Dream, a utopian one where many characters wish to fulfill their version of an American Dream according to the influence of Tom Paine. Historical figures such as President Polk, the "Emperor of California J. A. Sutter (later depicted by Luis Trenker in the 1936 film "Der Kaiser von Kalifornien" either appear indirectly or in brief segments such as Kit Carson. Yet the historical canvas Halsey depicts is not antique but relevant to our time with depiction of resilient female Hispanic characters, Native Americans, and white Americans of different characters all struggling in one way or another either to succumb to changing times in despair or fight against the exclusive racial and social barriers affecting agency and identity. MY SOUL TO KEEP is not only a very well-written novel but one peculiarly akin to a very special American experience that still eludes us today, namely that if the promise of realizing potential no matter what gender and racial character one belongs to.It's intuitive scope represents the first stage in a special American epic whose story.is one of a "work in progress" both in fiction and historical progress.,