Bold Strokes Books has an excellent record of nurturing new authors. Jaime Maddox adds a fascinating debut novel with a strong historical angle to the ever-growing lesbian literature genre and is a worthy read.
This book focuses on Sandy Parker, a lesbian in her 50s (yeah, to older main characters). She comes back to her former hometown to bury her grandmother, Nellie, who brought her up as a quasi-orphan. This present time event is interlaced with a retelling of the historical events of the hurricane Agnes (hence the name of the novel) which basically drove Sandy away. Forty years before, the hurricane took away from Sandy in one fateful night her idyllic childhood home and her passionate lover, Jeannie, and derailed her life as a young adult forever. Now Sandy’s return brings back memories of old and unravels a lot of family secrets.
The story is well-told and deftly switches between the two timelines. One can at some very rare occasions still see some marks of the editing process. Thanks to the experienced editor Shelley Thrasher for a job well done which adds to the overall impression of a very well-written book.
The events around Agnes cast a dark pall over the whole book and Jaime Maddox succeeds in creating, very skillfully, a dark, brooding, almost gothic atmosphere including a grave digger and sinister relatives. It was a pleasure to read until in the end a radiant light dispels most, if not all, darkness.
This is not a book for those looking for a classical romance or for swift action. The unfolding of the events is unhurried, languid as the Susquehanna River in summer where the historical part of the story is set. Sandy Parker is totally unsuspecting that her presence at the funeral of her grandmother sets a whole series of events into motion and the story reflects this. The characters and the historical background, especially of the early mining of the area and being a lesbian only one generation ago, are something to be savored and appreciated. In addition, the book comprises in a nutshell lesbian lives from the 1970s to the present day. Although the story is very rich in details, secondary characters, and atmosphere it stays on course throughout.
Kudos to Jaime Maddox who grew up on the banks of the Susquehanna River in Northeastern Pennsylvania and returned after finishing her education in the big cities. She clearly enjoys transporting her readers back into the times and mores of that region. A great read indeed.
You can download a sample or purchase Agnes by clicking here.