Saturday, April 29, 2017

Becoming Bonnie - by Jenni L Walsh - Book Review

" Life will do what it wants with you, huh? Eat you up, spit you out. Comes a point when you got to push back, make things happen for yourself" - Becoming Bonnie, Jenni L. Walsh

One of my favorite kinds of novels are bildungsromans, coming of age stories. A young man or woman goes on a journey to find themselves, and typically, by the end of the book has evolved into an older, wiser, and more reasoned individual. There are so many excellent examples of this story-     "To Kill A Mockinbird", "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn", and "Ender's Game", to name a few. "Becoming Bonnie" takes that same age old structure structure and flips it - telling the story of a good, smart girl who after her own trials and adventures becomes the infamous Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde. How does one go from a young girl married to her high school sweetheart to a gun wielding criminal side kick?

Becoming Bonnie
by Jenni L Walsh

From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh--and just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Oscar award-winning film, Bonnie and Clyde--Becoming Bonnie is the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo! The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas's newest speakeasy, Doc's. Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it―perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling―she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life―like her country―is headed for a crash. Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Historic details

I love historical fiction, but truly struggle with the genre when it depicts the emotions and actions of real people. I have a weird relationship with that particular type of story telling, and generally dislike it - how are we to know what a real person was thinking or feeling, what their motivations were, etc. Starting "Becoming Bonnie" I wasn't sure what to expect from the story- besides the name Bonnie & Clyde - I knew very little about their story, particularly Bonnie's. Through reading, and the authors afterword, it became clear that really, very little is known at all about Bonnie Parker. Through reading, I came to really respect and enjoy the way that the author, Jenni L Walsh, respected many of the known details, but also added a fictional spin creating relationships - and lots of intrigue. 

Captivating main character, plausible development

The main character and narrator of "Becoming Bonnie" is Bonnie herself. I really enjoyed reading the voice that the author created for this character. Walsh's version of Bonnie was incredibly relatable and I really enjoyed reading from her perspective. I was surprised by how plausible Bonnie's changes became as the author crafted her transformation. When we meet Bonnie, she is a kind, wholesome high school student, engaged to her high school sweet heart, and struggling to help provide for her family. By the end of the book, Bonnie is dating Clyde Barrow, smuggling guns into prisons, and participating in many levels of criminal activity. I was captivated by Bonnie initially because of how strongly I related to her, and that feeling continued even after our world views changed significantly.

Bonnie + Blanche = 4ever

One of my favorite aspects of "Becoming Bonnie" is the gal pal relationship between Bonnie and her best friend, Blanche. At the beginning of the book, Blanche is the catalyst for much of Bonnie's shedding of her good girl persona. When Blanche begins working nights at a local speakeasy, Bonnie is initially skeptical and resistant. Eventually, Bonnie comes to appreciate the opportunity to support her family - as well as the opportunity to perform, a long time aspiration of hers. Bonnie and Blanche's interactions and banter were fun, and quick witted. I looked forward to seeing the duo together and I hope that Blanche plays a role in the sequel to "Becoming Bonnie".

What I Struggled With

I have lived in Texas for the last decade, but within about the first ten pages of beginning "Becoming Bonnie" I was a little frustrated with the constant Texas drawl depicted by the author. Thankfully, the further into the book I got, the less I noticed it - whether it was used less I'm not entirely sure. Other than that small issue, I really enjoyed reading this book and definitely recommend it!

Have you read "Becoming Bonnie"? What were your thoughts about the book? Please comment below, as I would love to chat about this read! Thinking about reading this book? Click here to find a copy at your local library or click below to view the book on Amazon.

Many thanks to Tor and Forge Books for allowing me to read this book prior to publication. As a "girl about library", where books are always free, you can be sure that all opinions expressed are my own. Happy reading!



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