Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh: A Book Review

Becoming Bonnie
Author: Jenni L. Walsh
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Forge Books
Release Date: May 9th, 2017
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley/Publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: From debut historical novelist Jenni L. Walsh--and just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Oscar award-winning film, Bonnie and Clyde--Becoming Bonnie is the untold story of how wholesome Bonnelyn Parker became half of the infamous Bonnie and Clyde duo!

     The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas's newest speakeasy, Doc's.

     Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.

     Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

     My Review: Becoming Bonnie focuses on the early years of Bonnie Parker, the infamous partner of Clyde Barrow. Bonnelyn is a young girl who dreams of a big future. She wants to become a teacher and marry her boyfriend, Roy. One day, she finds that her mother hasn’t paid the electric bill, and the family struggles to make matters meet to pay the bills. Bonnelyn helps out her family by working at a diner. However, when her brother gets a bad injury where he can no longer work, and Bonnelyn gets laid off at the diner, she makes a tough decision to work at a speakeasy. As she joins the speakeasy, she realizes that her dreams may be harder to attain than she could imagine.

    I found Bonnie’s transformation from a good girl to a criminal to be very fascinating. We first see Bonnie as an idealistic dreamer. She believes that through hard work and determination, she can achieve her dreams. However, as she faces money situations and family problems, she is confronted with reality. She realizes how hard it is to achieve the American dream. She also dreams about love and happiness. Eventually, she realizes that love is not a fairy-tale. Thus, seeing Bonnie’s struggles as she tries to make ends meet is heart-breaking and tragic. We know that she is a character who will not meet her goals and transform into the notorious criminal that everyone knows her to be.

  Overall, this story is about family, friendship, love, and the quest for the American dream. The characters, except for Roy, were very fleshed out. I wish the author would have focused more on Roy’s spiral to the dark side because his transformation was very sudden and had no explanation as to why he took a dark turn. Still, Mrs. Walsh did a great job in portraying Bonnie. I also thought the Jazz Age was a very captivating setting. Thus, this was an engrossing in-depth psyche of Bonnie Parker, and I look forward to reading the sequel, Being Bonnie. I recommend this novel to fans of Platinum Doll, Marlene, and A Certain Age.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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