Nikki reviews Heyday by Marnie Woodrow

This is the story of a middle-aged widow named Joss, who is trying to find meaning to her life after the death of her long-time partner . It is also the story of Bette and Freddy, two girls in 1909 who meet in a serendipitous trip on the Figure 8, a roller coaster at Hanlan’s Point in Toronto. The young girls strike up a close friendship immediately, with Bette grieving the death of her grandmother (and best friend) and Joss attempting to escape her difficult past. Both young girls find joy and love at Hanlan’s Point but their journey is fraught with adversity.

The setting is gorgeously rendered. You can fully imagine the amusement park, smell of the lake, the confines of Bette’s house which is increasingly rife with tension. I tasted the cotton candy, smelled the exhaust from the rides, and felt the heat of the summer. The amount of research that went in to creating this world was a very nice touch, and helped me feel further immersed in the story.

The characterizations were quite good, with only a couple that were a bit one-dimensional (Freddy’s paramours). However, the main characters and Bette’s father were fully developed and complete with flaws and heartache. I felt for them all, desperately hoping for a happily ever after. Do they all get one? I’m not gonna tell ya!

The dialogue was very good, all individual for each character, with built-in personalities, flaws and quirks that I appreciated. Some of the secondary characters were a little flat, but the mains were SO well-structured that that didn’t particularly bother me.

However there was one thing I wish could be more clearly delineated. Each chapter is from a different character’s POV. One being Joss in the present day, then separate chapters for Bette and Freddy (and at one point Bette’s dad got into the mix). However, there was no identifiable thing at the start of the chapter to say “hey this is Joss, jump forward to present, thanks!” Sometimes it took me a few sentences or a paragraph to figure out whose head I was populating. Later on in the story that didn’t bother me as much because there was generally a “Joss, then Bette, then Freddy” cycle for the vast majority, but it’s still something to keep in mind when reading.

Additionally, the end of the story kind of left some things hanging without resolution. I never felt a good connection existed to demonstrate why Joss’ story was presented alongside Bette and Freddy’s romps at their amusement park, or at least not one sufficient enough to satisfy me. So fair warning to those that need everything spelled out and presented with a nice pretty bow at the end. I have my theories on the ending, so if you’ve read it I’d love to hear from you!

Overall, a very enjoyable read that I feel like could have been a bit stronger with some tweaks, but that stuff might not bother anybody else but me.

You can download a sample or purchase Heyday by clicking here.

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