Spanning the six decades when Las Vegas grew from a dusty gambling town into the melting pot metropolis it is today, ‘Round Midnight is the story of four women—one who falls in love, one who gets lucky, one whose heart is broken, and one who chooses happiness—whose lives change at the Midnight Room. June Stein and her husband open the El Capitan casino in the 1950s, and rocket to success after hiring a charismatic black singer to anchor their nightclub. Their fast-paced lifestyle runs aground as racial tensions mount. Honorata leaves the Philippines as a mail order bride to a Chicago businessman, then hits a jackpot at the Midnight Room when he takes her on a weekend trip to Las Vegas. Engracia, a Mexican immigrant whose lucky find at the Midnight Room leads to heartbreak, becomes enmeshed in Honorata’s secret when she opens her employer’s door to that Chicago businessman—and his gun. And then there is Coral, an African-American teacher who struggles with her own mysterious past. A favor for Honorata takes her to the Midnight Room, where she hits a jackpot of another kind. Mining the rich territory of motherhood and community, ‘Round Midnight is a story that mirrors the social transformation of our nation. Full of passion, heartbreak, heroism, longing, and suspense, it honors the reality of women’s lives.
‘Round Midnight is the second novel written by Laura McBride, whose debut We Are Called to Rise was critically acclaimed and quite big success (and I still haven’t read it!) I admit this was a case of cover love, pure and simple. Isn’t it gorgeous? And then I saw it was set in Las Vegas and in the 50s…
The book was divided into three different parts, all set in Vegas. Firstly it’s the 50s, with June, then the 90s with Honorata and Coral and then Engracia in the present time. But don’t worry if you miss June, Honorata and Coral, as they will keep showing up in the future, although they won’t be main characters.
My favorite storyline was June’s, maybe because it was the first, or perhaps because it was the one we got to spend more time with. And her tale was a great one, as it featured racism, love, and sacrifice. I really liked reading about her life and definitely wanted to know more, but then it was the 90s and she was not the center of the story anymore. I was a bit disappointed, although the other two sections were still interesting.
The writing was simply amazing in this novel. I loved how the author introduced every section (someone watching the main character from a distance) and the way the stories were told: it was beautifully written and easy to read at the same time. And those are the best ones in my humble opinion. When the writing doesn’t feel simplistic at all and yet it flows.
Still, something weird happened with this book. I was thoroughly captivated by the story and the pages flew by, but at the same time, I wasn’t feeling what I should. I think it lacked that essential ingredient that usually makes me fall in love with a book. I’m fully aware that it might only be me, as I’ve seen glowing reviews all around! It’s a really good book, believe me. It just didn’t touch me as I hoped.
Netgalley, Touchstone, 2017