Can a book be both dark and negative and hopeful and joyous all at the same time? When reading this book, the answer is yes!
The characters in this book take the reader on a wonderful roller coaster ride that brings you up and then takes you down, twists you around and then before taking you back up, it throws curves at you that you don't see coming.
This is the story of a jazz singer named Naomi and her fatherless child Sophia. Naomi is a narcissist whose focus is solely on herself except for those brief moments when she realizes she is neglecting her child. Sophia basically raises herself helped by the devotion of her mother's male friend and an odd assortment of other friends who help out along the way.(A nun and a transvestite--if that peaks your interest!)
Naomi's focus is singular--her own singing career. As the reader gets drawn into the story, the less than glamorous life of a nightclub singer is laid out in stark detail. Small, run down clubs and the seedier side of the City (in this case Chicago) are the places where Naomi finds her brand of success. Better days are ahead but we can fully understand the character of Naomi better by watching her work these clubs. The time frame is the 60's, before gay rights and during the civil rights movement. You can feel Chicago ready to explode.
Where is the hope and joy? It is there in Sophia's day-to-day approach to life and in Naomi's voice. Both squeeze out their own concept of hope and have their own joys found in simple things throughout the story, Secondary characters are also positive and full of life and very supportive of Naomi and Sophia.
We don't get to see the end. Naomi's future success is alluded to....so there needs to be a follow up book to let the reader feel satisfied that the lives of Sophia and Naomi turn out okay. When all is said and done, we care about them.
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If you saw a child being abused or abandoned and you rescued the child, would you then just keep it?
This is the premise of this story. Even the heroine of the story doesn't know why she did it and why she hasn't called the police. If that seems like an unrealistic action, most people would agree. But the writing in this book makes the situation so realistic that you never question her decision, Instead, it seems logical and right.
Troy is on a ferry when she sees a child either fall or thrown from a passing ferry. Acting on instinct, she dives in and saves the child. The child speaks only French and Troy decides to try to solve the mystery of who the child is and what has happened to the child's parents on her own instead of going to the police.
Adventure, mystery, emotional swings, anger, suspicion, revenge, murder and a hero who saves the day, come out of Troy's actions. It is a lot to pack into one small book, yet it never feels contrived. The reader constantly wonders what would I do in the same situation? Most of us would have called the police at the outset but Troy seems to march to a different beat. Of course she has to weigh the ramifications and she realizes there is too much she doesn't know and too much about the boy and his ending up in the lake. That lack of information and a need to find out, keeps her from informing the police. Also, as the days go by it becomes impossible for her to justify her actions if she does calls the police. She realizes that she has passed a point of no return and to involve the police would make her look like a suspect.
This book had a somewhat predictable yet satisfying end. It is a fascinating read into what happens when you act on impulse and instinct and that ends up being the right thing to do.