Monday, August 11, 2014

Turning On a Dime- A Review and a Giveaway!

Time travel. The Civil War. Multi-cultural. Horses. Romance. There aren't many books that fit such a wide variety of categories--but Turning on a Dime by Maggie Dana does just that.

Samantha DeVries' father is Lucas DeVries, a third-generation American of Dutch descent and master horseman; her mother, Gretchen, is an African American and a history buff who has traced her family's lineage back to 1875.


Caroline Chandler is the daughter of a plantation owner in Mississippi who prefers her brother’s riding breeches to petticoats and pantalettes. But in spite of her tomboyish interests, she has lived within the boundaries of privilege and mid-19th century decorum. Soon after the story begins, Caroline is sent to a neighboring plantation for a dreaded social visit. While there, she learns that her family has fled their farm after Union soldiers commandeered it. 


Samantha (Sam) and Caroline’s worlds intersect when Sam visits her father’s friend’s antebellum home to look at horses. Sam picks up what appears to be a dime from her bedroom floor and falls asleep listening to Lady Gaga on her Iphone.  When she wakes up, Caroline is staring at her and wondering what a slave is doing sleeping in her bed.

Sam gradually convinces Caroline of who she is, although she admits that she doesn’t know how she got there. Caroline is barely prepared for her guest from the future: she has read about a man who travels to the future and sees horseless carriages and flying machines. But she is even less prepared to see a black girl who speaks, acts, and thinks as independently as Sam does. Fortunately, their mutual love for horses helps ease them over their initial discomforts. Or as Sam says, “No matter who you’re talking to, if they love horses you can get beyond whatever barriers you think are out there...” (p. 45)

Told from both girls’ points of view, the reader watches as Sam and Caroline experience slavery’s painful effects. I particularly enjoyed their “ah ha” moments.  When Sam first realizes she must act like a slave in order not to be detected she thinks,
“I am in a nineteenth-century horse barn facing a man with a whip—a mean looking thing with a knotted leather thong—and I can tell he’s dying to use it on me.
“Yes, mister,” I mumble.
He raises the whip. “Go.”
So I shuffle off trying to look as dejected as possible, but inside I am raging with fury. How did my people live like this? (p. 83)

Later, after Sam is mistaken for a runaway slave and is captured, Caroline thinks,
My fists curl into balls. Angry tears stream down my face. All I can think of is Sam huddled on the dirt floor of a slave cabin, being kicked and whipped. Without Papa to curtail him, Zeke Tuner will be brutal. He’ll unleash all his vicious fury on my dearest friend.
How did I not see this before?
Shame joins my angry tears. I’m angry with myself, and I’m ashamed of the world I’ve inhabited all my life without seeing it for what it really is.” (p. 137-8)

The author does a great job of showing the girls overcoming their initial distrust and forming their surprising friendship. In the process, each girl learns about the other girl's seemingly foreign world. Their wit and strengths are tested after Sam is captured; but working together they find a way of escape—and a way for both of them to return to their families. 

Maggie Dana’s love for all things equestrian is neatly woven into the narrative and the plot. Although separated by 150 years, from the moment that Sam asks Caroline,  “What is your horse’s name?”  they have a common bond. From the saddles, tack, to horse quirks and mannerisms, this novel is a great example of an author using what she knows to build a believable, fictional world.

I would recommend this book to girls from 6th-10th grade, as well as to adults who want to use their own life experiences as a springboard into fiction. And while you’re at it, it’s a terrific example of interlacing multiple genres into one novel. Read it. Enjoy it. Learn from it.
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To enter the giveaway for an autographed copy of Turning on A Dime, please leave a comment by 8 AM Friday, August 15. If I don't have your email address, make sure you leave that too. If you post this on your social media of choice or become a new follower to my blog, I'll enter your name twice. Thanks! 

My review of this novel originally appeared on LitChat on August 7, 2014.

17 comments:

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Unique story, and full of interesting twists. Thanks for sharing, Carol!

Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

Wow! Sounds kind of wild and incredible and also emotionally tough to read.

I love the concept. Please enter me! I

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks Linda and Joyce. You're both in!

Rosi said...

As I read this, I couldn't help but think of Octavia Butler's fabulous book, Kindred, one of my all time favorites. It also has a modern person time-traveling to slave time. I will definitely be looking for this book. It sounds captivating. Thanks for a chance to win a copy.

Carol Baldwin said...

You're in, Rosi--and I need to read Kindred!

Linda A. said...

Carol,
You have a talent for finding great books to enhance your craft. This line caught my attention: I’ve inhabited all my life without seeing it for what it really is.”

Thanks for the wonderful review.

Carol Baldwin said...

thanks, Linda. Part of writing a book is reading others! Put your name in the hat.

Lois said...

Thanks for the wonderful review. I look forward to reading this book.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Lois. But if you win I'm going to need your contact info!

sheri levy said...

Sounds intriguing. I'd love allthe horse stuff and history.
Thanks for sharing.
Sheri

Gretchen Griffith said...

Sounds interesting.Thanks for featuring it to make us aware of it.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Gretchen and Sheri. You're in!

Kim Van Sickler said...

Wow! What a premise! I am enamored with the time travel twist. I'm reminded a little of the Christopher Reeve movie "Somewhere in Time." In that movie it's the opposite with the coinage. When Christopher is back in time and sees a penny that shouldn't have made the trip, he's forced out of the past. Maggie Dana, have you seen that movie?

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kim. I'll nudge Maggie for an answer to your question. You're in!

Maggie Dana said...

Kim, no I've not seen Somewhere in Time, but now that you mention it, I will see if I can find it. Thanks for the tip.

While doing research for TOAD I read quite a few time-travel books and asked my sci-fi-loving son a ton of questions. His advice? There are no rules for time travel. Just make stuff up, but make it consistent.

kathleenburkinshaw said...

Carol, great review. I am going to look for this book-I love the idea of present meeting past!

Carol Baldwin said...

Maggie--that;s great advice for ALL Fiction! Tell your son I'm going to quote him in my writing class. Kathleen- you're in the giveaway now!