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Becoming Bonnie    by Jenni L. Walsh order for
Becoming Bonnie
by Jenni L. Walsh
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2017 (2017)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I was a little reluctant to start reading Jenni L. Walsh's Becoming Bonnie because I'm not that keen on books where I know the ending. But I enjoyed it very much, especially as it only deals with her early life. It portrays a young Bonnelyn with big dreams, and what seems like a long settled life ahead of her - to marry Roy Thornton, her childhood sweetheart, finish her education, and become a teacher.

But this is 1927, the height of the Roaring Twenties and times are tough in Cement City. The electric company has sent a Final Notice. Widowed Ma, who works at a factory, is ill. When her wild friend Blanche meets Buck and starts working at a speakeasy, Doc's, Saint Bonnelyn has no intention of joining here there. But then Bonnie's older brother Buster is injured and can't work, and she loses her job as a waitress. So she joins Blanche at the speakeasy, just for long enough to tide them over - and she doesn't tell Roy.

She helps Buck with an alcohol run, and they run into trouble - which is when Bonnie meets Buck's criminal brother Clyde Barrow. But she's still committed to Roy, though she doesn't share her 'flapper alter ego' with him. Bonnie gradually comes out of her shell at Doc's, where she sings on stage. And, of course, Roy and her family find out. And Roy starts to enjoy Doc's too much, gambling and losing. They do marry, but it's not what Bonnie had hoped for, and he blames her for dragging him into 'this world of sin.'

Gradually Bonnie rebounds from the disaster that her first love has become to the intense Clyde, who 'fancies himself a poet'. The bank's loss of all her money and the Great Depression only close off another dream - Bonnie can't afford to stay in school. And Clyde, who really only wants a simple life, has his own problems too. But eventually they are together - 'Bonnie and Clyde, meant to be, alive and free.' Jenni L. Walsh writes a very real, credible and likable Bonnie - don't miss this one!

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