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, and embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—Bonnie tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. What she doesn’t know is that her life—like her country—is headed for a crash. She’s about to meet Clyde Barrow.
I don’t know how I came across this title in the first place, but I’m so glad I did! The first thing that I noticed was the beautiful and shiny cover. The title was appealing too: Becoming Bonnie. I clicked on the link and found out the novel was about Bonnie, from Bonnie and Clyde. Late 20’s, Dallas, Texas. Prohibition and depression. I quickly added it to the TBR. A couple of weeks later I saw the book on Netgalley and immediately requested it. It didn’t have many reviews yet.
As soon as I started the book, I knew it would be a special one. And I know because I hated having to put it down! I was so deeply immersed in the story that I kept thinking about what would happen even when I was at work. And when I wasn’t reading, I was looking for pictures of Bonnie and Clyde and reading their Wikipedia page. I had seen the movie but didn’t remember much about it. Now I want to know everything there is to know about this woman.
I don’t know exactly why I found this story so wonderful, but I guess it just clicked with me. I think Jenni L Walsh is an amazing storyteller. You know when you’re reading a book and absolutely everything makes sense? Sometimes I read novels that I enjoy but I don’t understand certain decisions and find myself wishing some things had been different. In Becoming Bonnie, everything happened just the way I hoped. Bonnie’s coming of age, the events that unfolded, the relationship with her family, friends, and lovers. And the author managed to introduce every historical aspect in a smart and smooth way, so you understood why Bonnie chose to do what she did because of the context and what was going on around her.
This is not a book full of twists of surprises, but the story of a very special girl who’s trying to figure out her life. And despite knowing how it all would end, I still couldn’t get enough of her story. Keep in mind that Clyde doesn’t show up much at first, but I thought he was a great character (at least, for now).
I loved Bonnie. I love how she changed so much from the first page to the last, how she matured, how she became fearless. How she learned to say no, to stand up for herself and discover what she really wanted to do with her life. And I can’t wait to follow her and Clyde’s adventures in the sequel!
Netgalley, Tor Books, 2017