Blog Tour Review + Interview: The Ballad of Ami Miles

I am so excited to be a part of the blog tour for The Ballad of Ami Miles by Kristy Dallas Alley, hosted by TBR & Beyond Tours! Thanks again for letting me participate, and thank you to Swoon Reads for sending me an ARC of this book for review! Be sure to check out the other posts this week and follow along with the tour schedule!

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has not impacted my review and all my thoughts are my own.


BOOK DETAILS

41564826

Synopsis from Goodreads

Raised in isolation at Heavenly Shepherd, her family’s trailer-dealership-turned-survival compound, Ami Miles knows that she was lucky to be born into a place of safety after the old world ended and the chaos began. But when her grandfather arranges a marriage to a cold-eyed stranger, she realizes that her “destiny” as one of the few females capable of still bearing children isn’t something she’s ready to face.

With the help of one of her aunts, she flees the only life she’s ever known, and sets off on a quest to find her long-lost mother (and hopefully a mate of her own choosing). But as she journeys, Ami discovers many new things about the world… and about herself.

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REVIEW

I didn’t have a lot of expectations, going into this book, but it was still completely different from what I imagined. Opening up with the history of Heavenly Shepherd, an outpost and colony of people who fled during the government breakdown, these people reverted back to historic and bigoted practices: racism, sexism, homophobia, and general isolation. What I didn’t expect though, was the fact that Ami was meant to be breed like an animal.

This book is only 262 or so pages long and yet so much happens in this story. Ami runs away from home, getting away from the family who mean to make her a baby making machine. She is given information on where her mother might be and goes after her, ending up at Lake Point – a resort getaway turned encampment which is like it’s own town. She traverses through woods, escapes her family, and ends up in an entirely new world.

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book and I kind of wished it was longer. I wanted to see more drama between Ami and Papa or an attempt to get her back as she scrambled to get to Lake Point. But besides avoiding people and trying not to starve, the journey seemed easy.

Then we have Lake Point, where Ami meets kids her own age. And meets a girl that she might like. Which is wild for her, since she has grown up with the expectation that she is going to marry a man and have his babies. To serve him. Now, she has friends and a crush on a girl. We talk a lot about the differences between Heavenly Shepherd and Lake Point, but I really wanted the author to go into Ami’s transformation more. We see her thoughts and feelings towards certain things start to change, but surprisingly, Ami is very quick to let herself go with the flow and change her opinions.

Honestly, I really liked this book and I think I just wanted more of it. As it is now, it’s great. But with more in depth explanations or prolonged anguish, like trying to escape, questioning her sexuality, and really diving into the root of Ami’s racist upbringing, I think this book would have been longer and possibly even better.

Overall, I liked this story. I loved the discussion of sexism, racism, and homophobia that this book touches on. I think Kristy did it in a way that is very open, honest, and considerate. Though there are some moments where language needed to be considered and could have been changed. But, generally, a good story with a lot of in depth discussions going on. A solid star-1star-1star-1star-1 // 5 stars for me!


INTERVIEW

If you had to swap lives with one of your characters, who would you choose and why?
That’s an interesting question! I would say probably Jessie, because she is free and easy with herself in a way that I strive to be. She’s also not a rule follower, and I wouldn’t know how to act if I swapped places with a character who was because I definitely am not.
What’s a fact/moment/piece of research that you love but weren’t able to include in this book?
I did manage to squeeze in a little fictionalized anecdote about the formation of Lake Eufaula, where a lot of the book takes place. That lake is also called the Walter F. George Resorvoir after the Georgia senator who was involved in building the dam that formed the lake from the Chatahoochie river. The creation of that lake wrongfully displaced a thriving Muskogee Creek community. George was also a segregationist who opposed Brown v. Board of Education. I wanted to acknowledge some of that disturbing history in a way that flowed within the story, so I have Jessie tell a ghost story that gives “Mr. George” the terrible comeuppance he probably deserved.
What inspired the setting for this book? Why a survival compound?
In Memphis, where I live, it is very common to go to the gulf beaches in Florida for vacation. For most of my life, I’ve driven up and down the highways of Alabama to get to those beaches, and at some point I started to notice an abandoned trailer dealership right up by the side of the road on a long, empty stretch of 78. It feels like a lush, green, empty world around there, and I’ve often mused about why that land sat empty when other places are overcrowded. I started to think about those empty trailers and imagined people finding them and moving in, maybe in a post-apocalyptic world. That led to thinking about who those people might be, and why they would hole up in such a place. The story grew from there.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about writing a book?
My favorite thing about writing is imagining the characters and watching them really come to life in my mind. My least favorite thing is having to make them suffer! Ami came to feel very real to me, and it was sometimes tempting to make things too easy and pleasant for her. I wanted this to be a fun book to read even though it deals with some difficult subjects, but of course there has to be conflict and difficulty in order for your character to grow.
What is your favorite piece of advice for writing or publishing a book?
Keep going! When you get stuck, make yourself move forward and give yourself permission to write bad prose or to leap over plot holes, knowing you will go back and fix all that later. The important thing is to keep your characters moving through their story. I got stuck for two years because I was overwhelmed by the idea of that next part of the story, and the way I finally got past it was to follow that advice. I wish I had done it a lot sooner.
What are you looking forward to the most on release day?
It’s funny because releasing a book is such a big thing, but also it will happen on a Tuesday when I’m at work, and I’ll be doing regular Tuesday things. But I’m excited to finally have it just be out there! My release got pushed back from May to December because of the pandemic, so it made what was already a long publishing journey even longer. I think in a way I’ve been holding my breath waiting for that day, and it has been hard for me to really commit to writing something new because there’s this nagging feeling of things left undone with this book. So I’m looking forward to that feeling of completion, and knowing that it’s really out of my hands and into the hands of readers.

AUTHOR DETAILS

Kristy Alley

Kristy Dallas Alley is a high school librarian in Memphis, Tennessee, where she lives with her husband, four kids, three cats, and an indeterminate number of fish. She studied creative writing at Rhodes College in another lifetime and holds a Master of Science in Instruction and Curriculum Leadership from the University of Memphis. In an ideal world, she would do nothing but sit on a beach and read every single day of her life, but in reality she’s pretty happy reading on her front porch, neglecting the gardens she enthusiastically plants each spring, and cooking huge meals regardless of the number of people around to eat them. The Ballad of Ami Miles is her debut novel.

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