Monday, May 8, 2017

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L Walsh

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L Walsh
Release Date -  May 9, 2017
Publisher Website - Raincoast Books
Publisher Social Media - Twitter
Pages -  320 pages
My Rating - 5/5
**received for an honest review**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh, 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, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn't know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

She’s about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Few details are known about Bonnie's life prior to meeting her infamous partner. In Becoming Bonnie, Jenni L. Walsh shows a young woman promised the American dream and given the Great Depression, and offers a compelling account of why she fell so hard for a convicted felon—and turned to crime herself.
Everyone knows the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. It is one that has inspired countness other stories to be told. The fact that their story has been told many times before makes finding a unique one a bit of a magical occurrence. Not only is Becoming Bonnie unique, but Jenni L Walsh has crafted a spellbinding read that transports you to the 1920s with ease. It also introduces an unforgettable young woman whose story becomes her own, and not just as part of a duo.

The hook may be the Bonnie and Clyde inspiration but make no mistake, this is Bonnie's story. She isn't merely sharing the spotlight with Clyde, and that made all the difference. Anything inspired by this infamous duo typically focuses on them as a pair, or even centers Clyde as the focus and I was pleasantly surprised to find this novel was not going to do this. This novel allowed Bonnie to be her own person and as a result I feel the reader really gets to know her and understand her motivations. Her journey from the 'good girl' who is scandalized at the thought of a speakeasy to the woman who will eventually join Clyde in their infamous crime spree is gradual. This ensures that the transformation is believable. Her characterization is the main reason her story works, and great care is put into crafting Bonnelyn as someone you'll connect with and understand. Her character development stands out in this gem of a novel and she felt like a friend by the time I turned the last page.

Clyde's introduction to Bonnie's story starts out with a bang, but is actually more muted than you might anticipate. This Clyde is someone this Bonnie can relate to, and someone that would believably turn her head. He's not as flashy as some of men she firsts meets at the speakeasy but there is something magnetic about him and an underlying confidence. They share a desire to help their families and the want for a simple life. Jenni L Walsh makes you instantly believe their attraction, and shows how the wholesome young woman we meet in the beginning of the novel becomes the kind of woman who could fall for a man like Clyde Barrow.

The setting, and essence of the 1920s is brilliantly captured within these pages. The imagery is so vivid and descriptive that you feel transported. The detailing and care that went into capturing the day of the stock market crash was especially noteworthy. You felt the desperation, panic, and fear. It's a harrowing scene that backdrops the latter half of the novel perfectly. I could easily see this as a limited series on television and that is, in large part, due to the vibrancy Jenni L Walsh's writing has.

While I won't spoil where Jenni ends this chapter of her Bonnie and Clyde tale, I will say that it is the perfect ending for this part of their story. There is a bittersweetness to knowing a sequel is coming. You want more time with these characters, and you're left on the cusp of what is going to be an incredible part of their story. At the same time, you've been made to care about these characters and fate is going to catch up to them. We know how their story ends, and that thought is never far from your mind as you are reading. It tinges every element of this story with a bittersweetness even as you fall deeply in book love with this world and the characters.

A story that dares to look at the well known story of Bonnie and Clyde from a different perspective. It, for me, was the perfect blend of commercial and literary with this becoming a fast paced, well written read. It's a must for your beach bag this summer and I predict many sunburns as people become engrossed in Bonnie's story. This is a must read for anyone who saw photos of Bonnie Parker and immediately wanted to know more about her, and wondered what her story was. 

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