Savannah’s Choices by Donna Ketchbaw

First of all, I have to say that I finished this book, yet have no clue what the heck it was about, except some woman named Savannah who bullied storeclerks, slept with a married man, and moved into an old lady’s house. This review bucks all format that I try to instill in my posts, but this book bucked format, so it all evens out. I’m not going to give this book a rating, either.

We start out the story with Savannah. Well, technically we start out the book with a bizarre little prologue type thing, then a geneology. From there we launch into a description of how Southern and beautiful but morally corrupt Savannah is. She hooks up with this married dude at a party. Some old geezer named Tom P. Hackett– and don’t you forget it. If you read this book, you won’t. Tom P. Hackett is never addressed as anything other than Tom P. Hackett. I think I counted seven Tom P. Hackett’s in two paragraphs at one point. Oddly, just about everybody except the old black people borrowed from a Shirley Temple movie, is referred to by their full names. I got to the point that any name that started with a “T” had me shuddering and mentally scribbling it out with a permenent marker.

This book is a whopping 593 self-published pages. about 350 pages of it is completely extraneous detail and description, usually about the secondary and tertiary characters’ former lives that nobody really gives a damn about in the first place. Three chapters went to telling about a store owner’s failed marriage to a homosexual pedophile. Dude. We didn’t want to know that. Another three chapters went to explaining Savannah’s landlady’s tragic past– all told in the dialect of a Southern-fried, straight from a 1920’s black and white film’s exaggerated ‘obligatory former slave’. I skipped that part because it was like reading a language made of syllables and apostrophes. Now, I’m from the South, and der ain’t bein’ no colored pe’ples dat be talk’n like dis he’e.

Every character in the story–and I mean every character in the story–had some sort of tragic past that involved either the early death of a loved one and their subsequent lonely existence, or an extramarital affair/affair with someone otherwise engaged. And there were SO. MANY. CHARACTERS. Half of this book could have been cut by just eliminating some of the cast. Astronomical word count doesnt’ equal a good book. In fact…it pretty much guarantees it’ll be a perfect paperweight. Which it is. I’m holding down my massive stack of tattoo designs with it right now.

I think Ms. Ketchbaw was going for literary women’s fiction in the vein of something like Jodi Picoult ( I guess…Once Oprah gets her hands on an author I don’t have much interest anymore).  All I do know for sure is that this book is just too long and too shallow to achieve much more than making the reader want to know when its going to be over. I never really figured out what Savannah’s choices were, and why they were so important and life-changing that she had to have 593 page book written about them. None of the choices were really that powerful. Now, if her mom decided to have another baby because Savannah was dying of cancer and had no matches for a marrow transplant. That’s one of those good choices. Or if she was pregnant with quintuplets and had to choose between having all of them or selective reduction, that’s another choice. Or, if she had a $100 entertainment center and wanted to buy a $500, that would even be more interesting and thought provoking than whether or not she should abandon her life as she knew it because she got buuuuuuurned romantically by a notorious married ladies man and run like a coward into the hills of Wyoming to inflict her drama on a whole new state and community.  Or the choice to go ahead and marry the man-whore who she meets and then who leaves her, goes home and marries some other chick, then decided, OOPS, should have married the first one!

I do think, as a reader with hundreds of books, and as an experienced published author myself, that this book has potential. Ms. Ketchbaw just needs the help of an experienced writing group, preferably with a few professionally published authors to help her hone her craft. A lot of the flaws in the book are ‘newbie’ mistakes, namely the 8 pounds of extraneous description and the individually-named citizens of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and their respective life stories. Secondly, Ms. Ketchbaw needs an editor she isn’t paying via a self-publishing set-up. Any editor who truly cared about the book and not the paycheck/editing commission would have red-lined at the very least 1/2 of this book. And it wouldn’t have done anything but help the author.

I won’t tell anyone this is a horrible book. I couldn’t find anything other than stuff on Authorhouse’s website about Ms. Ketchbaw, so I’m assuming she’s just new to writing and publishing (at least fiction). We’ve all been there. I’m just hoping she’ll go the harder route of writing a book for a royalty paying publisher next time. The benefits will far outweigh the ordeal of  ‘getting there’.

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5 thoughts on “Savannah’s Choices by Donna Ketchbaw

  1. Gee…I read it too and loved every detail and page turning plot. I have talked to lots of people who have read this epic saga…it is long, but such a good story. To me there was a depth and meaning to Savannah’s story that went way beyond the written word. I sure would recommend it to anyone who loves a great story.

  2. I don’t how you could write a review like this about that book. It was absolutely the best fiction I have read in years and I am an avid reader! How could you not know what the story was about?? Obviously, you missed something somewhere. I couldn’t put it down! I have e-mailed Ms. Ketchbaw that I hope she writes a sequel. I recommend it to anyone who loves a great fiction story.
    Gina from Louisiana

    • What’s your definition of avid?

      You really should read some current fiction. The ‘telling’ (and telling, and telling, and telling, and telling) phase went out in the eighties. Hey, if you like racial stereotypes, extraordinarily long passages (chapters, actually) of descriptions that didn’t matter a single whit to the story, and unappealing characters, sure, it’s a great book.

      Seriously, an editor, a real one, like at a real publisher– not a vanity press, would have chopped this book to hell and back and then made it into a good story.

  3. Sorry I don’t have your name whoever wrote the review or I would address this to you. Gee, for someone who hated the book, I sure got a lengthy review about it. For the record about this “new fiction author,” Savannah’s Choices was selected one of 3 “Finalist” in the Romance category at the National Indie Excellence Awards this May 2009…. and my royalities are just fine, thank you.
    Donna Ketchbaw
    Author: Savannah’s Choices
    National Indie Excellence Awards Winner

    • Never heard of those awards, and I’ve been in the small press industry for ten years. Looked at the site, and it looks like most of it is self-published. Um…ok.

      As I said in the review, the book had potential. If you had dedicated house, content, and line editors (yes, different editors, not the same one wearing all the hats), this book would have been much better. About 300 pages better, actually. There’s just way too much time, paper, words, and backstory that could have been condensed, rewritten to be more ‘showing’ than bland ‘telling’. But you won’t get that with self-publishing. They want money. Your money, and the thicker the book, the more they are going to make. Plus, they have no vested interest in you as a writer. Just the vested interest in getting your payments.

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