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on July 01, 2012 :
Rosebloom tells the story of Rose Krantz, a 16 yo girl growing up in southwest Wisconsin during the Depression. Knowing that her family is overburdened, she decides to run away from home to seek adventure. Upon signing up to work on a river boat, she begins to realize that the world she knows and the 'real' world are two different things.
The author skillfully weaves historical facts into her book, and it's easy to tell that a lot of research was done prior to writing this novel. I also found that Ms. Keleny took on some rather difficult subjects, such as racial tensions and prostitution, and handled them very realistically and very responsibly, yet managed to capture the voice of a young, naive girl whose optimism and genuine friendliness sets her apart from the people of her time.
Rose doesn't see color - she just separates people into nice and bad. This allows her to form a strong friendship with Lilli Mae, a colored girl whose room she shares on the river boat and who works with her. It allows her to view Grandma B. as family, and be invited into the matriarch's home. It could be argued that her lack of understanding in regards to segregation is a tad unbelievable, but I chose to overlook that aspect, and decided that her sheltered upbringing on her family's farm was the cause of that.
Upon her arrival in New Orleans, Rose is separated from Lilli Mae at the docks, and makes the acquaintance of a Madam running a brothel. Madam E. takes the young girl under her wings and offers her a job keeping the books as well as sending her to school, plus room and board, in exchange for those services.
It is there that Rose meets Malcolm, a young, Cajun man who is a jack of all trades. They fall in like and begin a courtship, one that I'm told is continued in the sequel.
Rose's voice was mostly believable. The story is told primarily from her POV though we also get glimpses at the other characters' inner thoughts. She's usually optimistic and cheerful, even in dire circumstances, choosing to see the glass as half full and exhibiting a canny ability to find good even in bad situations. The narration is almost always so cheerful that I found myself smiling along with the character.
The writing is rich and very detailed, and I found myself completely immersed in the vivid descriptions of the country side, the boat and the towns, so much so that it felt as if I was right there with the characters.
The primary focus of the story is not romance, but the adventures of a young girl in the mid-30s, coming into her own. Very nicely done.
I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on April 11, 2012 :
Christine Keleny has a delightful writing voice which transports you back in time with the main character Rose, a sort of female version of Huckleberry Finn. Rose is an optimistic young woman who altruistically leaves her overburdened family to find work for the summer in the kitchen of a riverboat. Despite her circumstances, Rose is almost always cheerful, and reading her narration is a mood-lift. We follow her through her adventures down the Mississippi, to St. Louis and even New Orleans and back as she receives one heck of a life education along the way.
The adventure is full of interesting juxtapositions and lovable characters. POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT: For example,at one point in the story Rose attends a high falutin' private school while secretly living with a black family. At another point, she lives and works in a bordello (in an administrator's capacity, not as a call girl) while attending a private Catholic school. END SPOILER ALERT
The historical details in this book are rich, well-researched, and engaging. At the end of the book the reader discovers that many of the details were actually relayed to the author by a person who lived through the era and worked on a riverboat, which makes this book a wonderful historical recording of the details of an era.
(reviewed the day of purchase)