A Novel of the Human Spirit

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
364 Pages
Reviewed on 05/12/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite

Triumph: A Novel of the Human Spirit by Jodi Lea Stewart is a historical fiction novel that paints a picture of how small fissures can change generations of lives through the vivid imagery and storytelling of Stewart's characters. The book begins in 1903 with two children ripped from their homes in diverging storylines that create the centerpiece of Stewart's saga. The chapters glide back and forth between the events that occurred and the residual timeline sixty years later, told through the eyes of multiple points of view narrative. As the stories begin to converge, an abduction into a cult and a Texas Ranger weave into an unlikely pair of friends, Annie and Mercy, at the dawn of an American reformation on race, heritage, and the ties that truly bind.

Triumph is a stunning and sweeping piece of literary fiction that ticks all the right boxes for an engrossing read. Jodi Lea Stewart sets the stage with an emotional series of events, one in particular where I practically crumpled to the ground with Flo, a woman forced into the worst type of despair when she comes to understand what has been taken from her. The prose is gorgeous, with almost poetic beauty. “It feels like a knife in his heart watching the death harden the girl even more than she already is in small, unshared ways.” My favorite character was the spirited Mercy who is a delight on every page. Her dialogue practically sings. Stewart doesn't disappoint as the book pulses through to the revelations by Annie and Mercy, leaving readers with the delicious satisfaction of life's sweetness even when built on the salt of tears from years gone by.

K.C. Finn

Triumph: A Novel of the Human Spirit is a work of fiction in the historical, adventure, and cross-cultural fiction genres, and was penned by author Jodi Lea Stewart. Written for an adult readership, the work does contain graphic scenes and some disturbing imagery that is relevant to the present danger of the plot. The story follows two friends from very different families, one black and one white, over a period of 65 years in their history. The friendship goes through ups and downs and some very sinister turns, as secret societies, segregation and the fluctuating times change our central girls for the better and the worse. What results is a powerful drama about friendship, fortitude, and the passage of time.

Author Jodi Lea Stewart has crafted a mighty tale that packs a huge emotional punch, and you can feel its impact on every page of this excellent novel. The central protagonists, Mercy and Annie, could not be more different on the page, and the dialogue and descriptive work put into this distinction are effective and highly imaginative. It is the twisting events of the intriguing and unusual plotline that brings out their similarities and the true human spirit, which is a wonderful thing to become more and more invested in as the story continues. The historical atmosphere of the piece was also vividly portrayed. I really adored St. Louis in a time of such progress, yet so much tension. Overall, I would definitely recommend Triumph to readers who enjoy historical sagas that deliver on friendship, hope, and heart.

Ruffina Oserio

Triumph: A Novel of the Human Spirit by Jodi Lea Stewart is a timely novel that explores the themes of racism, family history, identity, and the strength of the human spirit. It is a story steeped in US history that provokes readers to reflect on what defines being American. In 1903, two children suffer unspeakable fates. While a young boy, William, is abducted by a voodoo sect, a girl is given away to a Texas Ranger by her poor parents. In 1950, another storyline explores a friendship between two girls, Mercy Washington and Shirley Ann Blackburn, one white and the other black. They grow up in St. Louis and their relationship deepens as they grow older, but can it survive the bigotry and the racial culture that is taking control of the city?

A beautiful story that is deftly told, Triumph is set over long years and has the reader drifting through different timelines and across different cities. The author writes about three storylines in the novel and combines different narrative voices, including an irresistible first-person narrative voice that stays with the reader throughout. The lyrical writing, coupled with the apt use of the local accent, enriches the story and augments the realism that permeates it. The reader can picture the characters and know about their background from how they speak. The author handles themes that are as relevant and sensitive to contemporary readers as these were to characters since 1903. This is one of those novels that compel readers to think about one of the pressing problems of America: the color line. And it also asks serious questions about identity. This novel is a powerful testimony that we can outgrow the pettiness that defines people by their color and see a human spirit behind the shade of skin.