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Even As We Breathe

A Novel
by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle

Even As We Breathe introduces the reader to twenty-year-old Cowney Sequoyah and the mountains of western North Carolina during the summer of 1942. Cowney is spending the season as an undervalued member of the Grove Park Inn’s grounds crew. The inn is currently home to Axis diplomats and their families being held as prisoners of war. Cowney struggles to balance the often conflicting worlds of life at home on the Qualla Boundary (Cherokee Indian Reservation), where a Capuchin monkey roams the woods at will and mysterious forest fires loom, with life at the inn where foreign diplomats quietly negotiate backdoor deals and a secret room provides the rare opportunity for Cowney and Essie (his enigmatic carpool companion) to construct their own world views. Bud, Cowney’s uncle, offers the only true glimpse into Cowney’s past before his parents died, but Bud’s own demons threaten to upend Cowney’s peace with the past and compromise any hope for a future free from the consequences of his family’s choices. When a diplomat’s young daughter goes missing at the inn, Cowney finds himself in the center of suspicion and betrayal. Cowney’s experience is an examination of race and class tangled in a microcosm of the secluded inn. His story asks the reader to consider the tropes of American imprisonment and our role as both prisoners and imprisoners. Cowney finally comes to reason that all three natural elements that cause so many problems in life (bones, blood, and skin color) will not be what remain of humankind in the end. Only the human spirit can be passed on wholly to the next generation.

University Press of Kentucky, 2020
240 Pages
Reading Time: 8 hours

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