Becoming Bonnie

Jenni L. Walsh imagines the story of the quintessential good girl turned gangster's moll in her debut novel, Becoming Bonnie. Bonnelyn Parker has always been a straight-A student and a straight-arrow girl. Since her daddy died, she's toiled extra hard to help her mama around the house while working nights and weekends at a local diner. But times are tight in Prohibition-era Dallas, and when Bonnelyn loses her diner job, she's not sure how her family will make ends meet. Her rebellious best friend Blanche drags her along to Doc's, a local speakeasy that might have jobs for them both, and Bonnelyn starts down a different path--one that will change both her life and name.

Bonnelyn's first-person voice is distinctive and charming: she's bookish, plainspoken and fiercely loyal to her family and to Roy Thornton, the boy she's loved since they were little. But she has dreams of her own, and they include more than scraping by. "This here is the twenties," she says. "Women can vote; women are equals, wanting to make a name for themselves." Bonnelyn is unsettled but seduced by the free-and-easy atmosphere of Doc's and the tip money that begins to ease her family's financial burdens. As her new life (complete with an appealing new boy, Clyde) 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. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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