Rose Alone

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
372 Pages
Reviewed on 02/18/2023
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Author Biography

My writing emerged in grade school, when I wrote a letter to the editor about an untruth in his newspaper. After exposure to lyric poetry, I wrote poems, some of which were published, then on to short stories, ditto and then, to a novel.
Earlier, what I read spurred me on to what I wrote. and as a child i especially enjoyed Marquerite deAngeli's picture book stories, often about children of different cultures. Later I read, Willa Cather, and that story certainly spurred me onto more immigrant stories.
Specifically, inre to "Rose Alone," the discovery that Acadians had lived in colonial times not far from where I live now motivated me to find out more.
And it was, a lot MORE. By this time, I had a research degree and used those skills to uncover more of the Acadian story. Paired with my imagination and research, "Rose Alone" emerged from the mists.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Emily-Jane Hills Orford for Readers' Favorite

It’s the middle of the eighteenth century, the English are at war with the French, and the English have set their sights on ridding the colonies of any French settlers. Rose is Acadian, not really French, but the English view her and her family as French – aliens, spies, and a nuisance to the community. In one harsh move, the English herd the Acadians from their homes, forcing them to board ships, and splitting up families and friends in the process of relocating the unwanted people. They are taken to places unknown, and many die at sea. Those who survive are indentured and become nothing more than slaves to their new masters. This is Rose’s plight until she finds a way out and manages to reconnect with some of her family, loved ones she believed she would never see again. Only the journey isn’t over yet, and there will be more tears as they must part once again to make way for a new life in a new land.

Sheila Flynn Decosse’s historical fiction novel, Rose Alone, chronicles a difficult period in Canadian history. Following the journey of one Acadian, Rose, the plot unravels through heartbreak, loss, suffering, starvation, bullying, prejudice, and so much more. The stalwart young lady matures and blossoms under the trials of multiple separations and the loss of loved ones she’s not sure she’ll ever see again. The story is told with apt descriptions of the setting and strong, believable characters. Dialogue is well orchestrated and used effectively. The historical background has been well-researched and is woven delicately into the plot. The reader will instantly feel the angst of the protagonist, Rose, as she struggles on her journey so far away from home. Like Alex Haley’s epic novel, Roots, this is a powerful story.

sheila flynn-decosse

My book, ROSE ALONE, has a new review by Emily-Jane Hills Orford. The reviewer's insight into my story is right on! She gives a fine summary and then a 'telling' of the suspense and action in the story without giving it all away. I hope you will enjoy this tale of a young girl caught in an exile and immigration nightmare.

Evan Harris

“Rose Alone”
Sheila Flynn DeCosse
TBR Books, $17.99

Set in the era of the French and Indian War (that's the confusingly named one where it was French colonial forces versus English colonial forces, with the French supported by Indigenous allies), "Rose Alone" by Sheila Flynn DeCosse, a historical novel for teens, touches on an episode in history that is little explored by literature for young readers: the mass deportation by English forces in 1755 of thousands of Acadians, French-speaking families who lived in farming communities in Nova Scotia. Acadians were seen as potential allies of the French, and their presence was not tolerated in the English-controlled territory. Families were forcibly uprooted and displaced to English colonies.

The novel traces the fate of Rose, "a dark-eyed, black-haired, Acadian girl of fourteen years of age." Rose's life in the heart of family and community in Acadia ends abruptly with a forced evacuation followed by a harrowing sea voyage that lands her in colonial East Hampton. She is separated from family members and the Acadian boy who is her first love. She is denied free use of her native language, French being the language of the enemy in the community in which she finds herself.

The French language in the novel is of both home and battle ground, the apt embodiment of Rose's connection to her heritage as well as her alienation from the culture of the English colonies. It is notable that "Rose Alone" is published by a program of the Center for the Advancement of Languages, Education, and Communities (CALEC), a nonprofit organization that, according to its website, is "focused on promoting multilingualism, empowering multilingual families, and fostering cross-cultural understanding." Ms. DeCosse activates Rose's story in an exploration of these values, and is able to engagingly develop her protagonist against a backdrop of historical events and injustices that are certainly more than relevant today.

As the novel progresses, Rose emerges as a resourceful fighter, adaptable and capable in her new situation in the home of an East Hampton family, where she shares quarters with a young enslaved woman called Pegg. While Rose's situation is never specifically defined as servitude, indentured servitude, or enslavement, it is clear that she is trapped in a socio-historical stronghold. She has little choice, scarce opportunity, and is by no means free to leave. While Ms. DeCosse takes care to highlight Rose's compassion for Pegg, and Pegg's compassion for Rose, the sense of identification does not read as forced: Enslavement in colonial East Hampton is a matter of historical fact, not a contrived matter of thematic development.

Historical details — sheep and butter churns, specific foods and chores, the bluff road to Amagansett, "Whale ho!" (a whale spotted off the coast) — are well researched and deftly inserted to anchor the sense of time and place. Line drawings by Teresa Lawler that are naive in style and sweet in character are interspersed throughout the text to illustrate various scenes. Where illustrations are generally absent in novels for teens, these offer a special opportunity to expand the narrative through their simple, clear perspective.

A strong sense of cultural identity as an Acadian pervades Rose's forthright and emotional voice as the story progresses in the first person and in the present tense. The drama of her traumatic, displacing experience dwells in immediacy and gains momentum. The man of the house harbors abusive bitterness; the woman of the house nearly dies in childbirth; Rose's bond to her first Acadian love is tested by the advances of a young local man well versed in butter churn repair.

Feelings are perpetually intense. Melodrama happens. Yet the emotion in Rose's narration rings true, and the teen audience for which the novel is intended will recognize the thrill of keeping pace with the passion of one's own story as it unfolds.

Evan Harris is the head of children's services at the Amagansett Library. She lives in East Hampton.

Sheila Flynn DeCosse lives in Sag Harbor.