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Thursday, November 06, 2014

Warm Southern Novel Kind of a Hot Mess (Not Unlike Its Heroine)

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

When Joy Talley, the 40-something-year-old spinster of Spavinaw Junction, Oklahoma, decides to fetch a secret something out of her crumbling chimney, she ends up in a coma.  Talley luck being what it is, no one really expects her to come out of it.  What her family and friends don't know is that while Joy might not be able to talk or open her eyes, she's aware of her surroundings.  She can hear her siblings planning her funeral, see the hopeful face of her handsome young doctor, and feel her heart beat a little (okay, a lot) faster when her high school sweetheart walks into the room.  All of these things make her realize how much she needs to wake the heck up and change her pathetic little life.  

As soon as Joy is back on her feet, she plans to come to terms with the secret she's been hiding since she was a teenager.  To do that, she'll have to be honest about all the pain, the ache, and the bitterness that's been corroding her heart for so long.  Once that happens, maybe the old town spinster can even start making decisions for her future, like choosing a man to spend it with—will it be the kind doctor or the very man for whom she's been pining away for two decades?  With her daddy's ghost whispering reassurances into her ear, Joy's determined to put the past behind her and start living again.  If only it were that easy ...

I agreed to read/review Waking Up Joy by Tina Ann Forkner because the book's premise sounded cute.  Plus, I always dig a good Southern yarn filled with warm prose, quirky characters and, most of all, lots of juicy skeletons molding behind genteel facades.  Forkner does include these genre staples in Waking Up Joy, which she also infuses with lighthearted banter, humorous situations, and an inspirational message about forgiveness.  Still, these promising elements just aren't enough to camouflage a rambling, overlong plot; a flat, forgettable cast; and some really, really poor editing.  My biggest beef, though, was with Joy herself—for a "beloved" member of Spavinaw Junction society, she's awfully petty, vindictive, and self-absorbed.  In the end, this novel reminded me of a first draft:  the bones of a great story are there, they just needed to be honed and polished into a tighter, more focused narrative.  As is, I'm sad to say, the novel's kind of a hot mess (not unlike Joy herself), which is a pity because it truly did have a lot of potential.    

(Readalikes:  The tone and setting [not the writing] of this book reminded me of novels by Karen White, Dorothea Benton Frank, and Anne Rivers Siddons)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (no F-bombs), violence, mild sexual innuendo/content, and references to illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Waking Up Joy from the generous folks at Tule Publishing via those at BookSparks PR.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Joy sounds like my least favorite type of character. Great review but I think I'll pass on this one!


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