Even as We Breathe by Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle
"Clapsaddle's lush debut thrusts 19-year-old Cowney Sequoyah into WWII intrigue...The clear, crisp prose hums consistently as the intricate story easily moves along and new details about Cowney's family's past emerge. Both an astonishing addition to WWII and Native American literature, this novel sings on every level."
—starred review, Publishers Weekly
"Even As We Breathe is a remarkable and important debut novel that announces a major new voice in southern literature, and one that we have waited far too long to hear. Clapsaddle offers us characters we will never forget, a palpable sense of place, and an intricate plot, but most of all she allows us to luxuriate in her rich language, which is evident from the first sentence to the last. It was not only a pleasure to read this book, it was also an honor. Don't miss it."
—Silas House, author of Southernmost
"Even As We Breathe is a fresh, welcome, and much needed addition to the fiction of the Appalachian South and its neglected people and places. Clapsaddle creates characters with sensitivity, subtlety, humor, and warmth. A splendid debut by a writer well-worth following."
—Charles Frazier, New York Times bestselling author of Varina and Cold Mountain
Nineteen-year-old Cowney Sequoyah yearns to escape his hometown of Cherokee, North Carolina, in the heart of the Smoky Mountains. When a summer job at Asheville's luxurious Grove Park Inn and Resort brings him one step closer to escaping the hills that both cradle and suffocate him, he sees it as an opportunity. The experience introduces him to the beautiful and enigmatic Essie Stamper—a young Cherokee woman who is also working at the inn and dreaming of a better life.
With World War II raging in Europe, the resort is the temporary home of Axis diplomats and their families, who are being held as prisoners of war. A secret room becomes a place where Cowney and Essie can escape the white world of the inn and imagine their futures free of the shadows of their families' pasts. Outside of this refuge, however, racism and prejudice are never far behind, and when the daughter of one of the residents goes missing, Cowney finds himself accused of abduction and murder.
Even As We Breathe invokes the elements of bone, blood, and flesh as Cowney navigates difficult social, cultural, and ethnic divides. Betrayed by the friends he trusted, he begins to unearth deeper mysteries as he works to prove his innocence and clear his name. This richly written debut novel explores the immutable nature of the human spirit and the idea that physical existence, with all its strife and injustice, will not be humanity's lasting legacy.
Annette Saunooke Clapsaddle, an enrolled member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI), holds degrees from Yale University and the College of William and Mary. Her work Going to Water won the Morning Star Award for Creative Writing from the Native American Literature Symposium and was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. She is coeditor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and serves on the board of trustees for the North Carolina Writers' Network. She resides in Qualla.