Even as We Breathe
Nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah yearns to escape his hometown of Cherokee, North Carolina, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. When a summer job at Asheville's luxurious Grove Park Inn and Resort brings him one step closer to escaping the hills that both cradle and suffocate him, he sees it as an opportunity. The experience introduces him to the beautiful and enigmatic Essie Stamper-a young Cherokee woman who is also working at the inn and dreaming of a better life.
With World War II raging in Europe, the resort is the temporary home of Axis diplomats and their families, who are being held as prisoners of war. A secret room becomes a place where Cowney and Essie can escape the white world of the inn and imagine their futures free of the shadows of their families' pasts. Outside of this refuge, however, racism and prejudice are never far behind, and when the daughter of one of the residents goes missing, Cowney finds himself accused of abduction and murder.
Even As We Breathe invokes the elements of bone, blood, and flesh as Cowney navigates difficult social, cultural, and ethnic divides. Betrayed by the friends he trusted, he begins to unearth deeper mysteries as he works to prove his innocence and clear his name. This richly written debut novel explores the immutable nature of the human spirit and the idea that physical existence, with all its strife and injustice, will not be humanity's lasting legacy.
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About the Author
Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William and Mary. Her work Going to Water won the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium and was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. She is coeditor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and serves on the board of trustees for the North Carolina Writers' Network. She resides in Qualla, North Carolina.
"[A] groundbreaking first novel from Cherokee writer Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle...The distinct features of Cowney's Qualla Boundary home, where a freed circus capuchin explores the treelines, a mystical waterfall cave waits in the mist, and fires and outsiders are a constant annoyance, glitter among the book's mysteries and surprises.... Avoided family truths become a source of freedom in [this] fascinating historical novel." -- Foreword Reviews
"Clapsaddle's words have an easy grace, but they work hard, often pulling double-duty.... Even As We Breathe is shot through with deluxe use of image....There is a sweetness...in Annette's work that is neither finicky nor too sweet -- it is an even sweetness, rich and sustaining, born of loving ground. " -- Robert Gipe Blog
" Even as We Breathe slowly builds from a seemingly simple tale of first love into a meditation on the deepest mysteries and contradictions of human existence. The novel's final paragraph is a particular marvel, rippling back through the book and carrying the reader with it into the sublime. Annette Clapsaddle is an exceptional writer, and an important voice in Appalachia's literature." -- Ron Rash
"This novel's stories and its people will echo throughout the memories of many of its readers for a long time." -- Mary Whipple Reviews
"Clapsaddle's lush debut thrusts 19-year-old Cowney Sequoyah into WWII intrigue...The clear, crisp prose hums consistently as the intricate story easily moves along and new details about Cowney's family's past emerge. Both an astonishing addition to WWII and Native American literature, this novel sings on every level." -- starred Publishers Weekly review
"Clapsaddle's Even As We Breathe is the story of a young Cherokee man setting out in the world and discovering that in returning home, he might finally realize his full potential. And behind that story is the story of a debut author who did much the same." -- Bitter Southerner
"A very personal story about family, love and growing up into the world of western North Carolina during World War II.... This novel was impossible for me to put down and is one of my favorite books I have read this year." -- David Wilk, WritersCast
"This is a novel of intimacy and poignancy but also an exploration of how war and racism affect people's daily lives. As Cowney puts it, 'Empathy is fossilized in our bones.'" -- Elizabeth Blair, NPR
"This novel is profound, poetic, prophetic, pleasurable, passionate, and provoking of thought." -- Appalachian Mountain Books
"A beautifully written novel about life in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains around Cherokee, rich in nature as well as native myth, legend and culture.... Nature -- streams, waterfalls, a cave, forests, fire, the earth and the bones buried in it, even the air we breathe -- comes alive in this beautiful story" -- Greensboro, NC News & Record
"A richly woven wonder -- textured and honest, with a plot that rolls out gently and confidently, not unlike the mountains of Western North Carolina where the story is set." -- Town Magazine
"An engaging, debut novel." -- New York Journal of Books
"A lovely story that engages its readers and gives them a vivid experience in Cherokee culture." -- Independent Tribune