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Becoming Bonnie: A Novel Hardcover – May 9, 2017
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"Walsh’s debut historical novel brings the Prohibition era, the Great Depression, and American gangsters to life through the personality and circumstances of a notorious moll who starts out as a good girl. Although the story focuses on Bonnie, supporting characters provide further perspectives on the magnetic pull of jazz, illegal booze, and a (short) life on the lam . . . Look forward to the sequel for later exploits of these notorious bandits." --Booklist
"As her new life . . . barrels toward her old one on a collision course, Bonnelyn must decide what name she wants to make for herself. Walsh's rollicking narrative will have readers rooting for Bonnelyn-turned-Bonnie every (dance) step of the way." --Shelf Awareness
“A compelling account of a nation and a life in disarray―readers will feel for Bonnelyn as she finds herself scrabbling for survival in a world turned upside down. How do you go from good girl to gangster's moll? Jenni L. Walsh takes you along for the ride in an account so vivid you would think you were there with her.”―New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig
"In Becoming Bonnie Jenni Walsh delivers an intriguing insight into the life of one half of the infamous duo, Bonnie and Clyde. I look forward to reading more from this new author."--New York Times bestselling author Hazel Gaynor
"Debut author Jenni Walsh deftly pulls the reader into Bonnie’s world, and then deeper into her mind, so we see exactly how and when she made her choices―and her bed. I have to admit, I rooted for Bonnie to connect with Clyde all along, because who can resist a handsome, dangerous man who also happens to be your soul mate? Even if it means you’ll never be that good girl again. Booze-soaked, southern-fried, and fully immersive, BECOMING BONNIE is a rocking good read." -- Heather Webb, author of Rodin's Lover
“A dazzling and compulsively-readable adventure of self-discovery, with a voice both singular and irresistible. I dare you not to fall in love with Bonnie, and her intoxicating, wholly immersive world.”―Lee Kelly, author of A Criminal Magic
About the Author
JENNI L. WALSH has spent the past decade enticing readers as an award-winning advertising copywriter. Her passion lies in transporting readers to another world, be it in historical or contemporary settings. She is a proud graduate of Villanova University, and lives in the Philly 'burbs with her husband, daughter, son, and goldendoodle. Becoming Bonnie is her first novel.
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In Becoming Bonnie we see the beginning of the tale. We see the world as Bonnie knows it, of the various struggles of her family, of her marriage to a boy named Roy, how she met the first members of Barrow gang and most importantly, how she met Clyde. It's a romance, a coming of age story and a dip into the past in a most artful way.
Even though I know the story of Bonnie & Clyde, I love hearing it told in the fantastic new voice that Jenni Walsh brings to the table. I am already desperate for the sequel!
Jenni L. Walsh
Becoming Bonnie: A Novel
Hardcover, 978-0-7653-9018-9 (also available as an e-book, on Audible, and on audio CD), 304 pgs., $25.99
May 9, 2017
“But I, being poor, have only my dreams.”
“Saint” Bonnelyn Parker grew up poor and ambitious in Cement City, a company town in West Dallas created for the employees of the area’s cement plants, in the early twentieth century. In 1927, Bonnelyn is seventeen years old, attending high school, singing in the church choir, escaping into books at the local library, and dreaming of becoming a teacher. When her widowed mother becomes ill, her brother is hurt on the job, and Bonnelyn is laid off from her waitressing job, she follows her best friend, Blanche, to a bartending job in an illegal speakeasy (its walls papered with pro-Prohibition posters) in the basement of a physician’s office in what is now the Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, so she can keep the electricity on.
Becoming Bonnie is the debut novel by Jenni L. Walsh. Historical fiction set in Dallas during the latter years of Prohibition, Becoming Bonnie is the story of how prim and proper Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous, bootlegging and bank-robbing couple Bonnie and Clyde.
The pace is steady if slow at times. The plot is simple but packs a healthy number of twists. Walsh’s characters are engaging, especially Bonnelyn’s best friend, the irrepressible Blanche. Bonnelyn seems to break character regularly, but these instances always follow a threat to the financial survival of her family, providing plausible motivation. “I mixed right and wrong together ’til I found a comfy spot in the middle,” Bonnelyn says. Walsh’s historical details are authentic, often charming, and well deployed. Her research of the era and setting is obvious, while she grants having taken liberal license with her historical characters, beginning with Bonnie Parker’s name.
Bonnelyn’s first-person narrative is written colloquially (“Mama had more pride than a lion”): droppin’ its G’s; using “ya” for “you”; “’cross” for “across”. This technique is effective but used inconsistently: an equal number of G’s remain, and some word choices appear too sophisticated for the established down-home, country style—the same Bonnelyn who says “not no one” refers to customers at a café as “patrons”. Overuse of various conjugations of “growl”, and the like, indicate a need for closer editing. These elements taken together can be distracting.
Becoming Bonnie is most refreshing in that it’s not about Clyde Barrow; he doesn’t appear until a third of the way through, and doesn’t become a factor in Bonnelyn’s life until two-thirds of the way through. It’s not about him. Becoming Bonnie is a coming-of-age story centering on Bonnelyn’s transformation from reserved, conventional, small-town girl to risk-taking, dangerous, gangster moll. One of the best things about Becoming Bonnie is the power of female friendship between Bonnelyn and Blanche.
While uneven, Becoming Bonnie is creative and has moments of inspiration; Walsh has promise. Y’all look for the sequel, Being Bonnie, coming soon.
Originally published in Lone Star Literary Life.
Most recent customer reviews
Could have been so interesting but it was so sophomoric. Such a disappointment. Who is reviewing these books anyway?