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Like I Used To Dance: A Novel by Barbara Frances Paperback – December 28, 2015
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
About the Author
Barbara Frances has plenty of stories and a life spent acquiring them. Growing up Catholic on a small Texas farm, her childhood ambition was to become a nun. In ninth grade she entered a boarding school in Our Lady of the Lake Convent as an aspirant, the first of several steps before taking vows. The Sisters were disappointed, however, when she passed up the habit for the University of North Texas, where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English and Theater Arts.
Her professors were similarly disappointed when she passed up a postgraduate degree to become a stewardess for American Airlines. Barbara, however, never looked back. “In the Sixties, a stewardess was a glamorous occupation.” Some highlights include an evening on the town with Chuck Berry and “opening the bar” for a planeload of young privates on their way to Vietnam.
Barbara eventually returned to Texas and settled down. Marriage, children, school teaching and divorce distracted her from storytelling, but one summer she and a friend coauthored a screenplay. “I never had such fun! I come from a family of storytellers. Relatives would come over and after dinner everyone would tell tales. Sometimes they were even true.”
The next summer Barbara wrote a screenplay on her own. Others followed, including Two Women, a finalist in the 1990 Austin Screenwriters Festival. Three more were optioned: Silent Crossing, The Anniversary and Sojourner Truth. Barbara left teaching and continued to work on her screenplays. In 1992, exhausted by endless rewrites she did something many screenwriters threaten but few carry out. She turned down an option renewal, done forever with writing—or so she thought.
It was not to be. One day a friend’s child found and read Lottie’s Adventure, her script for a children’s movie. At her young fan’s urging, Barbara turned it into a book, published by Positive Imaging, LLC, her husband Bill’s press.
For Like I Used to Dance Barbara drew upon childhood memories and “front porch stories.” Her next novel, Shadow’s Way, is a “Southern Gothic tale” about a woman caught in the struggle to keep her beloved plantation home from a scheming archbishop.
Barbara and her husband Bill Benitez live in Austin, Texas. She can be reached at: email@example.com
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Top customer reviews
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(Note: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley and the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review.)
So I was delightfully surprised to find I was hooked within the first few pages and couldn't read the book fast enough as I was dying to know what would happen next. I usually only get that fast into books that are suspense, mystery or crime novels by the likes of Grisham or other top authors. I was almost amused that this tale, set in Texas in the 50's around a loving family of 5 could grab me this hard and fast. But I know why it did. I had to stop myself several times to remind myself this was fiction, not memoir. You see, "LIKE I USED TO DANCE" nails the unspoken realities, the secrets family members, even those who love each other keep from each other. This is fiction that shares truths.
I also enjoyed it because I could relate to what it was like to grow up Catholic ie... to feel like I was sinning just for liking the rush I felt with a man; to feel like God was punishing me for every transgression; to live in constant fear of the fires of hell; and to ultimately question what kind of loving God was that one we'd had drummed into our heads every Sunday. The Catholics in this book ask such questions and struggle with the answers, torn with the thought they will be punished for even coming up with logical answers like they were getting.
I was stunned to read the 1-star review left by another reader who obviously prides herself on being a prolific reviewer. She abandoned the book after reading only 12%, saying it was little more than a soap opera written by an amateur writer, far too full of sex for her tastes. Well I found no explicit sex scenes. Yes, there was a rape...does that reviewer know that 1 in 3 women have been sexually abused and/or raped? Yes, there's murder. Guess what? Turn on the TV news: that's a daily event. And yes, it's all ugly so if you don't want to read about and choose instead to live in denial, that's your prerogative. But I believe that LIKE I USED TO DANCE needs far more than a 12% read to learn what this story is really about: it's about people discovering their true selves through the love of other people who love them. And that makes this a beautiful book.
SPOILER ALERT - I can’t really write a review without discussing some of the outcomes of this book, so read it first, make up your own mind, and come back later to read my opinion.
This is the story of two devout Catholics, Bud and Grace, their three children and other assorted characters. It takes place in a small farming community in 1950’s Texas, and anything and everything is included in the tale. To sum it up, Bud explains it thusly, “Our kids, my, my, Gracie, where did we go wrong? One marries God, another a Jew, and the last one, the devil!” The main theme of the book is the path each takes to find happiness.
The character development is good, and you feel as if you know each character and care, or not, about what happens to them. There are so many social issues, one after the other, that it almost became overwhelming: alcoholism, rape (including that of a developmentally disabled man), murder, racism, domestic abuse, infidelity, miscarriage, depression, homosexuality and how about a little voodoo while we’re at it. It would have been good as a dramatic soap opera but, unfortunately, the book also attempts to cross over into the difficult realm of religion and its dogma. The book relies to a great degree on Catholic themes of confession, penance and forgiveness, which was quite heavy-handed against the Church at times. Unfortunately, the conflict between self and Catholicism specifically and organized religion in general was never fully explored. Instead, everything gets tidily wrapped up and everyone happily moves on.
It didn’t ring true to me as 1950’s Texas would be much less liberal than today’s society and tolerance of other’s behaviors would have been much harder to accept. I am specifically referring to Bud’s acceptance of his wife’s lesbian relationship. After a night of drinking, he decides that it has enriched their lives by making her a better person more aware of her body and herself, and he is happy once again. She decides it makes her a better wife because she is more aware of her body as well as being more independent, and she is happy once again. So simplistic! I would have thought the guilt such a devout Catholic would have felt would have been profound and not so easily explained away by Grace, and a wife’s infidelity so significant to not be so easily accepted by Bud. In another instance, Regina feels guilt about the relief her abusive husband’s near-death brings. She also feels guilt about his eventual real death but, hey, it’s okay because she found another man and is happy. In the same manner, Angela sleeps with her boyfriend days before entering the convent and keeps those memories as something sweet that God wouldn’t frown upon. While that may be, in the context of entering the convent it seems disingenuous. The book does touch briefly on each person’s inner struggle, but the self-serving behavior is presented as justified, so everyone’s happy.
I would have liked the book much more if the author had not brought religion into the mix. The story was big enough to stand on its own, and bringing religion into the mix only muddled the story.