Tara Conklin is an American author of historical fiction books best known for her debut novel The House Girl, #1 IndieNext Pick, and New York Times bestseller. The book has been translated into over eight different languages. Her second book The Last Romantics was released in 2019.
Before switching to full-time writing, the author worked at corporate law firms and for an international human rights organization in London and New York. Born in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, Tara spent her childhood in western Massachusetts. She studied history at Yale University and hold a Master of Law from Tufts University. She is a resident of Seattle.
The House Girl
Tara Conklin’s debut novel The House Girl tells the stories of two women in alternating chapters. In 1853, a young woman named Josephine Bell a 17-year-old slave working on a Virginian tobacco plantation schemes for her escape to freedom. Then in New York 2004, Lina Sparrow, a budding attorney is looking for a lead plaintiff for a suit seeking compensation for the descendants of the American slaves. These two stories from different time period intersect when Lina learns about a folk artist who works of art is thought to be the actual work of her house girl Josephine.
Lina embarks on a genealogical investigation to find out if Josephine had any children.
Josephine’s story, her fierce determination to flee from bondage as a house slave is enthralling. As a reader, you will sympathize with her circumstances. On the other hand, Lina’s story is also interesting. The compensation case is farfetched, and her study is advanced by coincidences that stretch credibility. But as she appears to reach a dead end, a document comes her way which gives her clues that have eluded many scholars for generations.
Tara Conklin’s debut novel is a story of two strong women living a century apart but joined by the savagery of their spirit. Right from the first page, you’ll get hooked under its spell and sensuous prose until the last page. It is an enthralling tale of social justice and identity narrated through the eyes of two indomitable ladies, one a slave and the other an attorney. The two are determined to define themselves according to their own terms.
Unlike other books that’ll take you a couple of chapters to hook you in, The House Girl will immediately hook you in the right from the first page. The main theme in the story is the comparison between the hopes and dreams of two young women.
The author gives a myriad of examples of how bad the slaves were treated back in the days. Tara also gives the readers hints on the different ways of how people are enslaved in the modern day. Additionally, the story also explores the good and the bad side to the question whether the Americans in the 21st century still owe the black people a “pay” for the contributions made by the slaves in the building one of the greatest countries in the modern day world.
The two heroines are well developed such that the reader can relate to them. Every single character comes to life with the vivid descriptions the author uses, and she places their feelings out in the open such that you can feel the pain, the tension, the longing, the frustration, and the happiness they experience.
The fact-finding and historical aspect of the story is fascinating as well. It’s quite interesting to how the crop records, farm kitchen records, deaths and births including the slaves were kept.
The House Girl is classified as a historical novel. It gives you the reader a better understanding of the norm of injustices, cruelty, structure, class and the inequalities in the 18th century. Additionally, there’s lots of mystery, suspense, psychology, romance, and philosophy. It also provides plenty of information about slavery and the famous Underground Railroad System which started in South U.S and stretched to North US and Canada.
The Last Romantics
The Last Romantics is the story about a family with four children living in a middle-class Bexley, Connecticut. The year is 1981 and their father Ellis dies at the age of 34 while working on a patient in his dental clinic. Three months after the death, the family is forced to relocate from their comfortable home to their old one-story ranch six miles away from town.
Their stay home mother Antonia never knew that they had no reserves of money. The oldest of the four kids is Renee and the youngest Fiona.
In the wake of their financial circumstance, Antonia suffers some sort of breakdown and retreats from all her responsibilities towards her children, choosing to spend most of her time in her bedroom.
The oldest of the kids, Renee, a composed and sensible young man assumes responsibility for her family. This period of the time would later be known as The Pause and lasted several years. The children become wild and dirty, and they adopt a nearby pond as their haven. Joe, the only boy among the siblings, was among the favorites, treasured and naturally talented baseball player. Renee was responsible for her siblings and strongly focused on her medical career; she also had a passion for writing.
The Pause comes to an end when an aunt visits the family for a while, providing some guidance to the kids and helps their mother regain some sense of parenting. Through her help, their mother becomes stronger, gets a job and becomes a strong independent woman and stresses to her children the importance of not relying on a man for success.
With the drama of their mom’s temporary breakdown and their father’s death, the kids are now older pursuing their interests in life. The conflict in the book arises when their Godlike figure brother Joe life doesn’t end up as well as they previously thought. And through the years the sisters must intervene for Joe. Additionally, after the end of The Pause, the girls are protecting their moms from anything that might spark the relapse.
Books in order of publication:
|The House Girl||2013|
|The Last Romantics||2019|