Book Review: The Jewel Box, by C. Michelle McCarty
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A mouthy small town girl takes on big city life assisted by her "Spiritual guide through sin city" who pulls a Professor Higgins on Cherie while offering advice on single parenting and multiple affairs of the heart ...
Back in the sixties while Motown hits filled the airwaves, naive Jill Novak acknowledged her knack for choosing losers when boring Husband Number One vanished, leaving her to support their two-year-old. The perpetual daydreamer soon morphs from small town Jill to sophisticated big city Cherie, but a new name does not a better future bring.
In 1969 Houston, Cherie encounters a rogue's gallery of characters unlike those from her small Texas hometown; a drop-dead gorgeous transsexual, a snarling wannabe Mafia hit-man, a hairy cop who incorporates fondling girls into his job, and a ditzo neighbor whose desire for friendship borders on stalking. But it is two distinctly different men - a middle aged gregarious gambler and a twenty-something gruff intellectual - who jump on board her turbulent thirty-year roller coaster ride and journey with her into the 21st Century and womanhood.
A tough and tender Texas-sized romance with a mild metaphysical slant, The Jewel Box highlights moments from the metaphysical, laid-back Age of Aquarius through the materialistic, high-speed Internet era. Music and references to the times/political climate convey the nation's rocky terrain (and subsequent growth) parallel with that of the main character. This is a story of an engaging and open-hearted woman with no plan, making her way through life by fits and starts, and ultimately succeeding by turning out to be stronger than she thought.
Based on the cover and the blurb, I'd have probably said, "Sounds good, but not for me." I picked this book up by request, but I was hooked within the first chapter and finished the book completely in love with half the characters. Jill's transition to "Cherie" is early on in the story accompanied by an adventure that takes her pretty far out of her comfort zone. And from there on out, her life comes in fits of happiness, moments of rage, and times of quiet, happy tranquility.
In a conversational style, Ms McCarty takes us on a adventure through the highlights of Cherie's life, leaving out the bland but bringing us face to face with the emotional moments that make Cherie who she is. Full of beautiful prose, talented writing, and lovable characters, this book is definitely a keeper. Were it a paperback I'd been asked to read, it would easily have earned a permanent place on my over-filled bookshelf, but as I received the book by Kindle gift, I'm pleased to say that I'll be reading this one again someday and have already recommended it to friends.