Weyward by Emilia Hart is one of those novels I know I loved. I have notes that say I did, and my immediate ratings reflect that I loved it. Unfortunately, even though I finished it one month ago, I could not remember anything about the book, even though I do remember details about books read before and after it. I had to read the synopsis before finally remembering the story. Now that I remember Weyward, I still stand by my initial reaction, but I will have to adjust my ratings because the story has no longevity.
The story occurs over three different timelines. From the outset, you know the three protagonists share the same bloodline, and part of the fun is attempting to predict how they relate to one another. Thankfully, Ms. Hart does keep us guessing. What could be a very predictable bloodline ends up being a pleasant surprise.
We spend most of our time switching between modern-day Kate and World War II-era Violet. It makes sense to have Kate as the main protagonist because hers is the modern timeline and also because we can better relate to her flight from an abusive marriage and the whimsy of living in a remote cottage. Violet’s narrative, however, drives most of the story, as hers sets up Kate’s future. Altha’s story exists to emphasize that their family has a history of being bossed around (i.e., abused) by men who profess to have their best interests at heart. While Altha’s story has her confronting the reality of the death penalty, what the other two women face is just as haunting.
One cannot discuss Weyward without discussing the abuse all three women face. Ms. Hart does not fade to black during those scenes. She shows us exactly what each woman experiences at the hands of men. These scenes are ugly, raw, and uncomfortable. The worst part is that the abuse is not just physical or sexual but also psychological and emotional. You cannot escape any of it. As if that isn’t enough, Ms. Hart heaps on misogyny and gaslighting to further her point about men ruling over women. It is a brutal picture of female-male relationships.
Thankfully, Ms. Hart also includes some positive female-male relationships to show that it isn’t all men or all relationships. The relationship between Violet and her brother is particularly heartwarming. Graham makes mistakes, but his love for Violet is unconditional. The steps he takes to rectify his mistakes are the ones that have the most impact on Kate’s life. More importantly, they help show that women are capable of anything without patriarchal oppression.
Interwoven throughout the three narratives is a familial magic that makes the women highly attuned to nature. Altha, in particular, is also knowledgeable in plant medicine, which, of course, makes her a witch. While their abilities play a large role in their fates, I feel the magic isn’t as important as their interactions with others, especially with men. In my opinion, Weyward is a novel of self-discovery and healing, and the magic is simply an added but perhaps unnecessary bonus.
Despite its darkness, Weyward is a beautiful story. Ms. Hart brings 1619 and 1942 back to life in a way few authors can achieve. While each woman undergoes traumatic hardships, it is obvious that Ms. Hart cares for her protagonists and celebrates their successes as much as we do. It is so unfortunate that I forgot all of this in a matter of weeks. A truly great novel has staying power, and I cannot consider Weyward to be a truly great novel simply because I could not remember a single thing about it until I read the synopsis.