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Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite
Rebirth in Acadi is a work of cultural fiction by author Susan Swanson. Family trees can be very complicated, as Elizabeth Bancroft, who renames herself Louise Dennis, is about to find out. Of course, everyone has skeletons hiding in their closet. Louise is of African-American descent, and while trying to unravel the mysterious duel of a post-Civil War ancestor, she finds herself engaged to a racial bigot. She’s in a quandary as to how to keep her ancestry a secret and her position safe. Even in the late twentieth century, racial tensions exist, especially in the small Louisiana river road town of Acadi.
Susan Swanson’s novel, Rebirth in Acadi, is a deep-thinking drama that delves into historical fiction as Louise unravels the mysteries and adventures of her illustrious ancestors. The plot begins with Elizabeth leaving her family in Brackenville, New York, changing her name and identity to Louise Dennis, and venturing south to unravel the threads of a weird tale her grandpa shared about a duel, a death, and a shattered family legacy. In her new identity Louise (aka Elizabeth) interacts with the people she meets in Louisiana. The descriptive narrative is well constructed, so the reader is instantly enveloped by the setting. The characters are well developed, and dialogue is used sparingly but effectively to help move the story along. The author knows her history, and this is interwoven cleverly into the storyline. She is careful and accurate in her depictions of racial discrimination and discord, both past and present. Overall, Rebirth in Acadi is a poignant and enjoyable read.