Under the Same Sky

Under the Same Sky - Genevieve Graham 3-3.5 starsOK, I'm sort of holding my breath as I type this review, because I'm concerned that it will be misunderstood. I *liked* this book, but I really wanted to love it, and I didn't.The author truly focuses on the two main characters: Maggie our Heroine from South Carolina, and Andrew our Highland Hero. Maggie has "the Sight", a gift passed to her from her grandmother - it apparently skips a generation. Maggie sees visions of what will come, good or bad, but mostly bad. The only "vision" she has that is constant and "good" is of "the boy", whom she finds out later is Andrew. Maggie and Andrew have "seen" each other and dreamt of each other for as long as either can remember. As they've grown up together (even though an ocean apart), they've come to know one another and to love one another; neither has any doubt that some day, they'll be together.In the meantime, tragedy after tragedy befalls each of them. Often, the other is able to provide some aid and comfort or even warning to the other. Knowing that the other is "there" is what keeps them both moving, living, going forward. It's wonderfully romantic.But... as a reader, I felt confused at times, cheated at others. Time is relative in this book. We start in who-knows-what year with only a reference as to Maggie being born in 1730. After reading a bit and then getting to Andrew's part of the story, I had to go back and re-read everything I'd read to that point, trying to figure out what year it was and how old Maggie was supposed to be. It seems that the author only wants to share specific events with us, and not the whole. We can literally leap from spring to autumn in the space of two sentences. And that's where my heart wept: it's what's in-between those sentences that could make this book so rich, so deep! It's those details, even mundane, that help us to really get the feel for the characters around Maggie and Andrew, and what's happening in their lives. It's what would make us care more... understand more... relate more... empathize more.Because within this story is the germ of something really wonderful and magical. This gift that Maggie has and her connection with Andrew that is the reason for the story seems cheated by the miserly details within this book's framework. We learn a lot about the misery and horror of life; our only real comfort is from Maggie to Andrew and vice versa. There is a bit of comfort offered by others, but we never get the opportunity to really *know* them. I still couldn't tell you much about Iain, except that he's a giant, he lost his family in the aftermath of Culloden, that he adopted 2 young kids, and that he traveled with Andrew to America. I have pieces of who Andrew's family might be, but they seem lost in the sea of getting Andrew to Maggie, as if nothing but bringing these two together is what really matters. But since that event doesn't take place until at least 60% of the book, if that's the author's intent, it seems almost cruel. And I don't believe that *is* the author's intent.It might sound cruel of me, but I view this book as a really good, really promising first draft of a story that is epic and wonderful and great. Perhaps it's my own sensibilities, but I have a hard time bearing all the tragedy and horrors of what happens (especially to Maggie) without wanting more of the good. Like when Maggie is with the Cherokee. I want *more* about her time with Waw-Li, since this is the turning point of her life - her acceptance of her gift, her ability to survive and heal from the horrors she's experienced. I want to know what happened to Kokili, since we rarely hear anything of her after Maggie meets Waw-Li. I want to know more about the Cherokee life - more than just mating rituals and Soquily's interest in Maggie.I want to know more about those Andrew encounters, too. I want to know more about Iain, more about Janet's family - especially her brothers. I didn't even know that Geoffrey could play the bagpipes, until he shows up as they're leaving! Is this supposed to be a signal? A farewell? Something more meaningful than a man playing the bagpipes? I don't know, because while I've gotten the sense that Geoffrey is close to Janet and upset at her leaving, I only have a few sentences to understand that. And while I know that Geoffrey plays the violin, how was I to know that he was more musical than that?Even the sea voyage that Andrew, Iain, the children, and Janet make from Scotland to America is vague... swept away within pages, without any real detail. We learn that Iain doesn't like the hammocks; Janet and the kids got a berth; Andrew & Iain worked harder than they ever had in their lives. And that's about it. There's so much of that story left out that could deepen the overall. And once they "land" in America, the group doesn't seem to have a bit of trouble with anything - the new life, the new people, and certainly not money. Yet somehow, I have a hard time believing that Andrew's parents had saved that much. It sounds like the only money they use is from the purse that Hector gave his daughter Janet; but if Hector had that kind of money put aside, why didn't he take his family to America before Culloden? Why bother to hide them? (And didn't anyone find that appalling and cowardly? I'd have thought that Iain, especially would have, even if Andrew could forgive.)As for Seamus Murphy, I'm still not sure if he's a good guy or a bad guy. I've had my doubts about him, probably because he's smooth and charming, as most con men are. But I simply haven't enough information about him to know. And that really frustrates me.I am also frustrated at Maggie's ability to "see" visions and not interpret them. I understand that she's resisted her gift most of her life. But after her time and training with Waw-Li, I'd think Maggie could clearly make out WHO the coyote in her dream is, especially since the author was so kind as to make sure to tell us about the distinctive scar on the coyote's face. Why doesn't Maggie even have an inkling of danger around this man until it's too late? Sure, it makes some sense as a plot device to get us to a particular cabin and a box, but it's hard to buy that Maggie has so little control or comprehension of her own gift at this point. Also, Waw-Li - surely she'd see more ahead of time? She was the one who wanted Maggie to make contact with the white settlers at the fort... surely that meant more than Maggie negotiating trade prices for the Cherokee?I'm also unsure of how we got from the fort, which is, I think in South Carolina near Charleston into North Carolina. In other words, how did Andrew and his group come across Maggie and her group? I didn't pull out a map, and I realize these states are close together, but still... it seemed like a very long way to go to escape. Why wouldn't the Cherokee head back into their own territory, where they'd be safer and have more numbers?There are so many unanswered questions - answers to which were either barely touched on or not addressed at all. And that's what makes me feel as if this book is incomplete yet. A really great book lost inside something that was published while still in its infancy.Perhaps if there weren't some similarities to the Outlander series, I could ignore some of it. (Although, because I still believe it's a great epic story yearning to be freed, I don't I could ignore it.) Character names are similar, although thank heavens, no Alexanders! But Sorcha is Gaelic for Claire. There's a Jamie. There's a Janet, even though she's referred to more often as Jenny in the Outlander series. There's an Iain, while his namesake in Outlander is Ian. There are Indians, Cherokee in this book. There are brutal men who rape, kidnap, pillage, and sell innocents into a white slave trade. There are lots of red coats and lots of Indians. The Outlander characters settled in North Carolina (northern part); it looks like Andrew's land is in North Carolina... and yet there are confusing references to Charleston (SC) - is it just where the Cherokee are? And then there's the author's own admission that Diana Gabaldon was an inspiration to the author, as she waits for the next Outlander novel.So I end this review that seems more criticism than praise. If it's so, it's because I really believe there's so much MORE to this story that hasn't been allowed to be told... hasn't been explored. All those marvelous details and nuances that simply stand in the shadows and, like Maggie's visions, plead to be known and understood. That "more" would make this story and its characters breathtaking and spectacular, not just ordinary.