Sweet Jane - Book Review

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Sweet Jane

Author: Joanne Kukanza Easley
Genre: Fiction - Womens
Publisher: Black Rose Writing
Date Published: March 19, 2020
ISBN-10: 1684334438
ISBN-13: 9781684334438

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GoodReads Rating:
4.21

Book Review of :  Sweet Jane



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Sweet Jane, by  Joanne Kukanza Easley, is a fictional biographical story of a woman of the baby boomer generation whose childhood struggles with her alcoholic mother and her habitually absent father haunted her and plagued her early relationships and ability to feel and accept love from others. Easley first immerses the reader into Janie’s dysfunctional family and the culture of the nineteen-fifties and sixties. Told in the first person, Janie’s early life on the plains of West Texas near Odessa is authenticated and enhanced by the author’s use of dialect, colloquialisms, and slang. From the opening sentence, “There I was, minding my own beeswax…” and Tom’s announcement, “Grandma June has kicked the bucket and we gotta go to the funeral tomorrow.” the reader is drawn into the novel. Janie’s tumultuous young life revolves around avoiding an alcoholic mother, missing a distant father, a much older brother, living like “po’ white trash” and funerals.
At sixteen, Jane begins her “trail of tears” after her drunk mama tells her that she wishes her dead. Jane joins the tsunami of teenagers flocking to San Francisco to be a part of or at least an observer of the hippy happening. She has a journey of 1500 miles to go to reach the city by the bay. She had little money for a bus fare so she used the same mode of transportation as fellow Texan, Janis Joplin did in June of sixty-seven, her thumb.  She arrives in mid-June 1967 just in time to witness the Monterey Pop Festival, a three-day rock festival that featured many popular bands of the sixties. Easley paints a very authentic description of this historic three-day rock event. Was she there? During the Summer of Love, Jane makes San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district her new home, it is the epicenter of America's counter-culture movement. She is mesmerized by the district’s Hippy lifestyle.
She then tries to resolve her past and move forward through bad luck and bad judgment by moving to Austin, Texas. Here her destructive course is tempered with realistic and relatable recoveries. Her present time story is told in the third person and alternates with more revelations of her past. She questions if her self-discovery and AA work has been in vain because she still has no idea of who she is. She admits to her friend that she sampled men like chocolates, not Godiva but the drugstore variety. Can she find answers in a forced return to Odessa? Easley’s knowledge of psychiatry and psychology adds a new level of realism to the story as she talks of various mental issues the protagonist battles.
The character-driven story is enhanced by the inclusion of religion in appropriate circumstances and by the author’s use of popular music from the period. Caught in a time warp when she returns home, she wonders if the trip will help her close some of the painful doors in her past. She says, “Am I trying to prove that I’ve transcended West Texas? It might could be I’m fixin’ to do just that, dad gum it!”
Jane’s return home for her mama’s funeral triggers hidden secrets and lies that she must deal with to mature and to make the best decisions for her future. Her worlds collide, challenging her resolve to face the problems with her floundering marriage to a professional with family money, or to a possible hook up with an old flame.
The author is skilled in incorporating emotional reactions and real-life situations into a compelling, heart-warming story of overcoming childhood trauma. Jane is a believable character who invokes sympathy and understanding. Sweet Jane is a novel that demands a sequel. The way this book is written pulls you into Janie Jennings'struggles growing up and drags you along for an exciting ride. I highly recommend it.


Reviewed by: Carole W

About Joanne Kukanza Easley


Joanne Kukanza Easley, born in Chicago, Illinois, has adopted Texas as her home. She lives in the Texas Hill Country on a small ranch with her husband, three rescue terriers, and abundant wildlife. Retired from a career in nursing--with dual specialties in the cold, clinical operating room, and the intense, emotional world of psychiatric nursing, she devotes her time to writing fiction. She is hard at work editing her next novel, JUST ONE LOOK, set in her native Chicago, and looking forward to her next project, LAUREN EATON.





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