Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Novel Reflections at Fifty: Two Reviews

I could probably write a mini-thesis paper comparing and contrasting these two library books - Once Upon a Time, There Was You by established author Elizabeth Berg, and Searching for Tina Turner by newcomer Jacqueline E. Luckett.

First up: Elizabeth Berg tends to be a surefire good steady read. She has a nice manner, strong voices, and her plots move along pleasantly. In this book, we meet John and Irene, both long divorced from each other but connected by their eighteen year-old daughter, Sadie. The adults are in their fifties, seeking out new loves/companionship, are set in their ways, conflicted about their own childhoods, and worried about the future. Sadie's in love with Ron but she hasn't introduced him to either parent. In a rather abrupt few chapters, Sadie is briefly kidnapped. The trauma of this event snowballs emotions, conflicts, and catapults the plot for all concerned.

I enjoyed Berg's story, but felt she glossed over the kidnapping sequence. Sadie was gone and then bam, she was back but married. Whoa! Her parents are concerned over her wellbeing and thought process and rightly so. And yet, when John and Irene married, was it truly for love or just an inevitable fate? Each character is flawed and Berg is very good at picking at the scabs and then cleaning wounds. Once Upon a Time, There Was You is a thought-provoking read with well drawn characters. Despite the characters' issues, you'll enjoy working through their problems with Berg.

Searching for Tina Turner is a sassy, fun read. This book explores the world of successful African American characters in their fifties. Lena and Russell are at the peak of success. He's worked his butt off to earn big bucks and a title. Russell asked Lena to forego her photography career to back him up. Now, Lena's looking to Tina Turner for inspiration. Is she willing to start over with the clothes on her back, her career and talents, and re-discover herself, rather than be in the shadow of a man? A man with affairs and an attitude, at that.

Big questions and at age fifty, it's really tough to start over. The body isn't perfect anymore, everyone has some baggage, and some of it is dragging on the floor. Jacqueline E. Luckett has created characters to root for and her sense of humor is superb.

This is an enjoyable read about serious issues. Lena runs into an old flame, but is she ready to jump back into a fire pit - a rich man with opinions? Lena comes from a strong loving family. Her mother wants her to mend fences with Russell, not rock the boat. Lena's sister encourages her to jump ship and be herself. Lena's daddy in heaven hovers - he was the beloved rock of the family.

I enjoyed Searching for Tina Turner immensely. It reminded me of Terry McMillan's writing and that's a compliment. Strong female characters in real life situations. Humor, style, and sass.

It makes reading fun.

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