East of Troost

A Novel

Fiction - Literary
256 Pages
Reviewed on 05/23/2022
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Author Biography

Ellen Barker grew up in Kansas City and had a front-row seat to the demographic shifts, the hope, and the turmoil of the civil rights era of the 1960s. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Washington University in Saint Louis, where she developed a passion for how cities work, and don’t. She began her career as an urban planner in Saint Louis and then spent many years working for large consulting firms specializing in urban infrastructure, first as a tech writer-editor and later managing large data systems. She now lives in Northern California with her husband and their dog Boris, who is the inspiration for the German Shepherd in this book. This is Ellen’s first novel.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Rabia Tanveer for Readers' Favorite

East of Troost: A Novel by Ellen Barker is the story of a woman rebuilding her life in the place she left behind. After her house in California burned down, our protagonist packed her meager belongings and her dog Boris and moved back into her childhood home in East of Troost. Going back was easy, but settling in was the hardest thing she ever did. As she made her house habitable, she realizes that setting back into the community she left behind was easier than she thought. As she rebuilds her life and forms new connections, she faces challenges unlike any other she'd ever encountered.

The author’s narrative style reminded me of Toni Morrison. I have an undying love for Morrison, so every time I find an author who has even a small inkling of her style instantly becomes a favorite. Even though the protagonist was middle-aged, I would confidently categorize this novel as a coming-of-age story or women’s fiction. The protagonist was complex, she tried too hard, and, at times, she was overwhelmed by her circumstances. However, she powered through it all and formed a new family among the residents of Troost.

The story reminded me of Sula by Toni Morrison; the community and the interconnected neighbors were the most prominent themes in both stories. The dialogues were fresh, the story was interesting, and the descriptions were fantastic. The pace was perfect, and there was never a dull moment. The momentum suited the story exceptionally well. Ellen Barker wrote an emotive tale with a fascinating protagonist and a powerful message. I loved it and enjoyed it immensely.