The Dream-Keeper’s Daughter
by Emily Colin
July 25, 2017
e-ARC via publisher (Thank you, Ballantine Books
Summary: Eight years after the unsolved disappearance of her boyfriend Max Adair, archaeologist Isabel Griffin has managed to move on and rebuild her life with her young daughter, Finn, her last tie to Max. But after a series of strange incidents, Isabel begins to wonder if Max might still be alive somewhere, trying to communicate with her. She has no idea that the where isn’t the problem—it’s the when. Max has slipped through time and place, landing on his ancestral family plantation in 1816 Barbados, on the eve of a historic slave uprising. As Isabel searches for answers, Max must figure out not only how to survive the violence to come, but how to get back to his own century, the woman he loves, and the daughter he has only ever met in his dreams.
Time-Travel, Romance, Historical, Contemporary
When I first heard about The Dream-Keeper’s Daughter, I was intrigued: a time-travel novel involving Barbados’s slave rebellion of 1816? Count me in! For the majority of the novel I was right there along for the ride, thoroughly enjoying myself…then disaster struck and the book took a turn for the worse at the end, leaving me to wonder what the entire point was.
When Isabel’s family makes the move to Charleston, she’s in way over her head. Between the big, sweeping mansions and Southern belles, Isabel’s a classic fish out of water – until she meets Max, a boy from an old money family. A family who would much rather see him settle down with a debutante than a girl who runs around in jeans. Over time, the two become closer, finally admitting their feelings for each other their senior year of high school, determined to make a long distance relationship work when Isabel moves away for college. What they didn’t plan on, however, was a baby and just after Isabel breaks the news, Max disappears. Literally vanishes before her eyes, leaving her to wonder not only where he went, but also if he ever really loved her in the first place.
Eight years later, Isabel is a lead archaeologist on a dig in Barbados when she receives a strange call. It’s Max – or so her phone claims. Though the line is more static than anything, she knows it’s his voice and he warns her to keep their daughter safe, the daughter he never met. As more and more strange incidents begin to occur, Isabel starts to wonder if Max really is alive – and if so, how can she bring him home?
Like I said, I was fully on board with this book right from the start. Sixteen years prior, Isabel’s mother mysteriously vanished, practically in the same spot Max did. It was this moment that brought the two together – he comforted her and helped her through a painful and difficult time – so when Max seemingly abandoned her eight years after, Isabel nearly broke. Since then she’s never stopped loving Max, never stopped believing that one day he’d return.
And just where did Max go? The Adairs’ mansion rests on a Thin Place, a place where time blurs. After following a man (a man he believed to be Robert Adair, his great-grandfather multiple times over) through the Thin Place, he found himself back in the past. Back in Barbados in 1816 on the eve of a famous slave revolt. Max’s chapters were fascinating and I would have happily read a book set entirely in the past! I don’t think I’ve ever come across a historical novel set in Barbados, much less one featuring Bussa’s rebellion! I was definitely one giddy history nerd.
Max believes he was sent to the past to change the course of history. He knows the outcome of the revolt, who will die, who will be hanged and executed. He also knows that the mistress of the house, Mrs. Lily Adair, will go into labor far too early, ultimately dying along with the baby. Robert was in the States at this time and when he hears the news he’s so distraught and overcome with grief that he leaves Barbados, moving to Charleston where he erects a new house specifically because of the Thin Place. Even after he remarries, Lily still has his heart and he never stopped trying to find a way to bring her back. Again, I absolutely loved this part of the book.
In the present, Finn, Isabel and Max’s daughter, seems to know things, claiming she sees her Daddy and Grandma Julia (neither of whom she’s ever met), and that she knows how the bring them back. Naturally Isabel is concerned and not quite sure what to make of this, thought once she begins having her own dreams and visions, it becomes harder to write the events off as tricks of the mind.
I want to point out an issue with the time-travel element. It didn’t bother me too much, though it was definitely something I noticed. Julia, Isabel’s mother, disappeared sixteen years ago. In the past, however, Max learns only a year has passed for her. Eight years later Max himself goes back in time and since he’s gone eight years, it would make sense that six months has passed for him, right? Instead, he’s only there a few weeks. Like I said, it didn’t take away from the story, but I’m not sure how the logistics added up. Another thing I was curious about was when they find their way back to the present. Would Max still be 22 (to Isabel’s near-30)? Would her mother have only aged a year?
Despite the confusing way time seems to work, I was seriously enjoying The Dream-Keeper’s Daughter…then the end came. Shortly after Max left, Isabel struggled to earn her Master’s and then Doctorate, all while raising an infant. One day she was in a coffee shop, nearly pulling her hair out over math problems. A young man came up to her and offered to help in order to fulfill a Pay it Forward promise he once made. Eight years later Isabel is still best friends with Ryan, though it’s painfully obvious he wants more. He’s taken on the role of father in Finn’s life and absolutely adores her. When he receives a job offer with Marvel, he knows the move to New York could seriously change his life, but he’s willing to pass on it if Isabel doesn’t want to move with him – and why would she? They’re just friends after all and she’s still in love with Max, fully convinced he’ll return. Here’s where I felt robbed: when Max does finally come back, Isabel isn’t sure why she’s not happier. She’s waited eight years for this. It turns out she’s actually really in love with Ryan and it took Max’s return for her to realize that. In the end she moves with him to New York while she and Max have worked out a custody arrangement. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
The Dream-Keeper’s Daughter had so much going for it and I was fully prepared to see it through to the end. I love a star-crossed romance that spans centuries, but in the end I simply felt robbed. The one shining moment of the novel was that I learned about Bussa’s Rebellion, a part of history previously unknown to me and now I’m interested in learning more. As for the novel itself, I’m left wondering what the point of it was.