Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book Review: Becoming Bonnie

Author: Jenni L. Walsh
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Forge Books

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.

“Bonnelyn,” he repeats. “Well, that name ain’t pretty enough for the likes of you. I reckon Bonnie suits you better.”

But I also swallow, nervous ‘bout two things: basically telling Clyde he’s free to run amok, and how my ma will react to me bringing home a convicted felon – on a Sunday, no less.

I take a step forward, stop. I know getting myself arrested will do neither of us any good. I need to be strong for Clyde – for myself – to give us a chance. So I raise my chin and say, “I ain’t going anywhere.”

I have always been intrigued by the lives of the infamous duo of Bonnie and Clyde. This novel was such a fun tromp back in time to get a look at the life of Bonnie Parker before and after she meets Clyde Barrow. The story focuses more on Bonnie and her life growing up, marrying Roy Thornton, working in a speakeasy, and after much anticipation meeting Clyde Barrow. The story will suck you in from the days of Bonnie’s na├»ve and innocent, church going all the way up until she is trying to avoid Clyde’s boyish charms. The story is set in the 1920’s and Walsh, the author, does a phenomenal job of making readers feel as if they are right in the middle of the speakeasy, sharing a drink and listening to Bonnie belt out a song on the stage. I could imagine everything that was being described all around me. Bonnie was a fabulous character and really embodied all that it meant to sacrifice for family. She was a truly motivational character.

The only issue that I had with the book was not really an issue and was explained by the author in the author’s note. It took forever for Bonnie and Clyde to actually meet, but after reading and having time to ponder this, I am now glad that Walsh wrote the book the way she did. It was necessary to see Bonnie in her younger days and see the development that her character went through as her experiences changed her. I loved the relationship between her and her best friend, Blanche, who ended up with Clyde’s brother, Buck. These four are also known in history as the Barrow Gang. These characters all help readers get a feel for Bonnie’s life and the type of person she was before and after she met Clyde. I also had a strong dislike for Roy Thornton, Bonnie’s husband. To my understanding, he was not a really great guy and treated Bonnie very poorly. All the more reason to love a scoundrel like Clyde who treated Bonnie like a Queen!

***A free copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers at Forge Books in exchange for my honest review***

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