Book review: Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

  • Jun. 10, 2017 12:30 a.m.

Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh

Historical Fiction

Published: Forge Books, May 9, 2017

In the Roaring Twenties, teenager Bonnelyn ‘Bonnie’ Parker is a sharp girl who is headstrong and determined, ambitious to become an independent woman one day. In the mess of the Great Depression, Bonnie struggles with attending high school and getting in enough hours as a waitress to help her family pay the bills. On her off time she’s either singing in the churches choir or spending time with her boyfriend Roy – who she could see herself marrying in a few years. Well, due to the depression Bonnie loses her job, and Roy suddenly proposes out of the blue – sending her plans for her future into chaos. The “uptight” Bonnelyn must then turn to her wild friend Blanche, for help who introduces her to the newest underground speakeasy establishment, Doc’s.

Although she’s engaging in illegal activities, Bonnie is making excellent money that proves to be more than enough to aid her family. She just has to make sure no knows where she and Blanche go every night.

So begins the time of Bonnie’s double life – by day she’s that wholesome loving church girl who attends school and ends up marrying Roy, and at night finding salvation in Doc’s. Things even seem get better when Roy takes interest in Bonnie’s double life, except he enjoys it too much and becomes very excessive with the drinking and the gambling …

At her new job Bonnie meets a handful of unique characters – one of them being Blanche’s love interest, Buck Barrow. And where there’s Buck, his brother Clyde ‘Champion’ Barrow isn’t too far behind. How Walsh introduces the character of Clyde Barrow, such an important character, is brilliant from my point of view.

Clyde doesn’t just appear half way through the book. His presence is known, and it lingers before he actually becomes more involved in the plot. And it’s that growing anticipation that keeps readers from putting the book down. Overall I enjoyed Walsh’s debut novel, but I found one flaw within the main character of Bonnie.

In the beginning, Walsh portrays Bonnie as girl who has her mind locked on going to school, becoming a teacher and over come the life of poverty she’s endured since childhood – which is fine. However, what is known of Bonnie is that she always had this fascination with fame and being remembered. In Becoming Bonnie, I do not gather that desire to be someone from our leading lady. Other than that Walsh has done a spectacular job with her debut novel – everything from the scenery, wardrobe to the twenties slang is perfectly written. Readers will be crossing their fingers for a sequel about America’s famous outlaw couple!

Kirsten Lowe is studying at Athabasca University.

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