Reviewed by Ambrea
Jessica is a journalist. Ambitious and bright, she’s poised on the edge of a story that will make her career—and she couldn’t be happier. She’s married to a wonderful man named David, she has a beautiful and vibrant little girl, and she has a job she loves. Life is perfect, until a sudden tragedy leaves her reeling and reconsidering her work as a journalist. As she puts the pieces of her life back together, she discovers small clues behind the story she’s investigating and the deaths that have shaken her foundation—and she’s about to learn that her perfect life is a perfect lie.
Dawit (David) is an immortal. His thirst for knowledge has led him astray, causing him to stay in the mortal world and, worse, fall in love. He’s drawn to Jessica and her daughter. He loves them, more than he can say, and he’s desperate to keep them in his life, but, as his desperation leads him to commit greater atrocities, Dawit—and Jessica—will pay a terrible price for his missteps and his deadly desire to keep his wife and daughter in his life forever.
Tananarive Due creates a fascinating and enticing novel in My Soul to Keep. She pulls from religion and myth, drawing from a myriad of cultures and countries and continents, extracting the most fascinating bits of history to create an intricately women story of loss and love, life and death and immortality—and all of its terrible implications. My Soul to Keep is beautifully rendered, crafting an exquisite story that’s one part tragedy and one part family epic that tosses together a number of intriguing, wonderful characters (immortal and otherwise) into a tangled web.
Let me say first, I loved this story. I stumbled across it purely by accident when I was scrolling through the audiobooks on my local library website and, when I realized it was perfect for my Read Harder Challenge, I jumped at the chance to read it. Not only was I impressed by the depth of the novel, which explores the human heart and the effects of immortality on mankind, I fell in love with the history Due included in her novel.
My Soul to Keep delves into a particularly dark part of American history, setting a portion of the novel in Louisiana shortly before the Civil War. She confronts the reality of slavery, the violence and loss that so many people faced on a daily basis, and she does a spectacular job of illustrating what someone like Dawit—who carries a mighty secret—might have experienced during those tumultuous and terrible times.
Due also draws upon many different parts of history: Chicago during the Jazz Age, Miami in the bustling modern world, Spain during the Inquisition, and even Ethiopia from Dawit’s childhood, more than four hundred years before the story begins. She weaves together an enchanting, sometimes terrifying and tragic tale, that encapsulates a variety of human experience—a tapestry of history that reflects the beliefs, culture, and language of each and every age she visits in her novel. My Soul to Keep is absolutely stunning in regards to the depth of historical detail it provides.
However, I really enjoyed the story, too. It has a complexity that’s thrilling, an undercurrent of suspense and menace that leaves the reader on the edge of their seat as they uncover Dawit’s history and watch his story unfold. Although it sometimes appears to develop slowly—that is, it took a little longer than I expected for me to personally put together some of the pieces—I was pleased with how the narrative evolved, how Jessica and Dawit’s relationship changed when some of his secrets come to life, Dawit’s actions in trying to protect his family and his flashbacks to his not-so-immediate past. Their story is compelling and rich and magical and, ultimately, tragic. Although I would often have to pause the tape and take a minute to process what happened (my heart was breaking for them as I realized their lives were taking a turn for the worse), I was riveted from the first chapter.
Since I listened to Due’s novel as an audiobook, I have to say I was particularly pleased with the narration. Peter Francis James does a stellar job of reading My Soul to Keep, melding flawless narration with an exceptional story. His voice brought life to the characters, gave them a singularly unique voice and an emotional impact that left me nearly breathless at the end of each chapter. His voice added a layer of richness and emotion that I appreciated from the very beginning.
Overall, I absolutely loved My Soul to Keep. It’s a great book all around, and it’s probably one of my favorites for the year. At just over eighteen hours, My Soul to Keep is a bit lengthy for my usual tastes, but I enjoyed it, nonetheless, and I certainly wouldn’t let the time present an obstacle. Due’s novel is worth reading or hearing, and I highly recommend it.