A Whisper of Smoke by Angela Hoke

A Whisper of Smoke


In 1960's Kentucky, teenage Susanna is used to taking care of things at home (Mama births adventures like golden eggs, but she's not exactly maternal). But when Susanna unearths shameful secrets about Mama's past and, worse, discovers that Mama has completely failed to warn, or protect, her own children, she's furious and fed up, and all she wants is to somehow escape the drama. 

Susanna finds comfort in the farm next-door and the boy who's always been her best friend. He's there for her like he always is, steady and appealingly normal and, before long, she's falling for him. For a little while, nothing seems as important as winning Calvin's love. But Calvin is involved with someone else, and when he deploys to Vietnam, it may not be Susanna's love he carries in his heart. 

Before long, it becomes clear that Calvin needs her friendship, if not her love, now more than ever. He's the most honorable person Susanna's ever known, and even he is being changed by his experiences. Suddenly Susanna's sense of honor, and fault, are being challenged, just as she has to face what's happening at home - that her withdrawal does not come without a cost, and her beloved brother is paying the price. Now she finds herself at a crossroads - repeat her mother's mistakes or face the awful truth. And it all boils down to a choice between fear and hope.


A Whisper of Smoke was an interesting read. I was enjoying it, then I really got into the story, but then the very end was just okay. Like it just went a step too far for me. But overall really enjoyed this story and I got really emotionally attached in the middle.

The story starts off when Susanna is in her early teens and she starts noticing Calvin in a different way. They have been friends for a long time, but then everything changes when they are dared to kiss. The kiss made Susanna see him as more than a friend, but she doesn't think he likes her like that so they kind of drift apart. They both get different girlfriend/boyfriends and the story moves along through a few years. You don't get to see a lot of the time or things that happen. It is just like bits here and there which was alright, but kept me from being super involved in the story. Some sketchy things happen, but the way it is told and how much we are show just kept me interested but not really connecting with it as much. It was a strange read as it didn't make me care a ton, but I enjoyed the way it was written at the same time. It was like I was just floating along reading the story and enjoying my time.

Then Calvin goes off to war. He signs up to serve in Vietnam and he writes letter back and forth with Susanna. Man those letter were amazing. My favorite part of the book by far. I just...they just pulled me in and really tugged on my heartstrings. I was so involved, so into them as characters and wanting everything to work out for them. It was so sad at the same time and I worried about what would happen, how is this going to end. Will he survive the war? If so will he come back the same person? What if he doesn't make it back? It just...those letter were the best part of the book. They really got me emotionally involved and broke my heart. The whole story could have been told just in letter format and I would have absolutely loved it.

Then the last part of the book, after the letter, was just kind of a let down. It went back to the way it was written in the beginning where I didn't connect with the characters or what was happening. Since I had such a strong connection just before this section it was kind of a let down. There are also other things revealed with the sketchy storyline and I didn't really like that. It felt like they were just added because, not because they were part of the story. I also did not like the last chapter, the way it ended. It ended on such a strange note for me. I just thought really? Did you need to include this? If I didn't have that middle section where Calvin was at war I probably would have been more okay with the last section. Still I did really enjoy most of the story and it was an interesting read.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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