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Reviewed by Tiffany Ferrell for Readers' Favorite
Before We Died takes place in the early 1900s and focuses on two Irish-American brothers, Jack and Baxter. Growing up in a poor environment, they decide to try their luck with the rubber business in the Brazilian rainforest. They embark on this journey in hopes of new riches and a future, though they are saddened and a bit reluctant to leave their mother, and the love of their lives behind them. Their journey takes them to Manoas, which is located in Brazil, and the beginning of their adventure. Soon after they are taken to their camp with two other Americans, the brothers realize that this isn’t as easy as it had sounded and their wishes for riches have been scuppered by a greedy man by the name of Abalo. He only has eyes on the money for his own profit, telling the men that it might be a few seasons before they actually earn anything. Angered and disappointed, Jack and Baxter travel through the jungle to do the job they had come all the way down there to do. What follows is a mixture of tragedy, bravery, and the brothers coming to a final understanding of one another and change for both of them.
Author Joan Schweighardt weaves an amazing story about two young men searching for the American dream. The character development is amazing and the storyline flows so well that before you know it, book one ends and you’re eager to know what happens next. I have heard about the rubber trade in small doses throughout my school years and as mentioned in some history books but reading this novel opened my eyes to exactly how dangerous this mission was. It seemed like almost suicide for two young men to travel to a jungle environment unknown to them, plagued with illness, wild animals you have only read about and ruthless rubber barons. You see the world through Jack’s eyes and you find yourself right there with him in that rainforest. Before We Died has everything a reader wants all wrapped into one (adventure, romance, tragedy) and yet Schweighardt is able to write it in such a way that it balances out perfectly to seem so real to the reader. I definitely will be reading book two when it comes out.