Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Kathleen M. Rodgers - Johnnie Come Lately - Review & Giveaway



About the Book

Would life have been different for Johnnie if she'd been named after a woman rather than her dead uncle? Or if her mama hadn't been quite so beautiful or flighty? The grandparents who raised her were loving, but they didn't understand the turmoil roiling within her. And they had so many, many secrets.

Why did her mama leave? Would she ever return? How did her Uncle Johnny really die? Who was her father? Now Johnnie Kitchen is a 43-year-old woman with three beautiful children, two of them grown. She has a handsome, hardworking husband who adores her, and they live in the historic North Texas town of Portion in a charming bungalow. But she never finished college and her only creative outlet is a journal of letters addressed to both the living and the dead. Although she has conquered the bulimia that almost killed her, Johnnie can never let down her guard, lest the old demons return. Or perhaps they never went away to begin with. For Johnnie has secrets of her own, and her worst fear is that the life she's always wanted--the one where she gets to pursue her own dreams--will never begin.

Not until her ghosts reveal themselves.


My Review

A woman's mind never stops.

It keeps going, going, and going, thinking about things morning, noon and night. The worries of today get lumped together with the mistakes and heartaches of the past along with the hopes and fears for the future.

In JOHNNIE COME LATELY, author Kathleen M. Rodgers gives an intimate, no-holds-barred account of what it's like to be inside the average woman's head.

Johnnie Kitchen is a forty-three-year-old housewife with a teenage daughter, a son in college, and another on the verge of graduating high school and enlisting in the army. She has a loving, hard-working husband who just found out she cheated on him when they first got married, and a mother who abandoned her as a child who suddenly decides to make a reappearance in her life. Johnnie finds herself always "having to balance loved ones on the worry scale. Who was more worthy, who was less?"

Needless to say, Johnnie's mind is a crazy, hectic place.

It's a humming, buzzing cauldron of differing levels of anxiety, yet the book is written in such a way that the reader can feel all the conflicting emotions she's going through at any given moment. And Johnnie's not just pondering things that advance the plot, her state of consciousness goes much deeper than that, examining what really makes a woman in suburban America tick in the twenty-first century. How does she fulfill all of the roles that are assigned to her? Mother, wife, daughter, lover, friend, neighbor…even devoted dog owner.

For Johnnie, "she could be anywhere, doing anything, and boom, she'd be zapped back to the past. It was as if she were living in two different dimensions: then and now."

Take for example, a reconciliation date she's on with her husband when she enters a restaurant that formerly housed the town bank. She immediately pictures herself opening her first savings account with her grandfather while taking a seat across the dinner table from her husband. But now she's not trying to save her pennies, she's hoping to save her marriage, the marriage she gave up everything for. It turns out she started that savings account in order to put money away for college—money she later used to support her new family after she dropped out of school and married the man sitting in front of her.

Yet the means by which Johnnie's mentality is most clearly portrayed is through her writing.

She's a character who writes, expressing herself through letters to deceased friends and relatives or piecing her jumbled thoughts together in compositions for a college writing course. It's how she tries to articulate answers to the questions that are endlessly plaguing her mind. Her eighty-four-year-old grandmother clams up whenever she tries to confront her about the past. Her phantom husband shields himself in "an earth-shattering silence," refusing to talk to her about her affair. And she only knows that her estranged mother is still alive after she reaches out to her out of the blue, since "ghosts don't call from a payphone."

It's no wonder she turns to the those who have passed away in order to sort things out—her father, her uncle, her grandfather, her first boyfriend, her ex-lover—because for Johnnie "sometimes the dead feel more alive than the people right in front of you." Especially when those people keep shutting her out, leaving her purposely in the dark. She uses writing to work through her issues because, "as far back as she could remember she always tried to place herself in somebody else's story." It's the only way she can make sense of things that don't make sense anymore.

One of the best lines of the book comes from Johnnie's son, Cade, when he asks, "Mama, why is our family so screwed up?" after seeing a photo of Johnnie's parents for the first time.

Johnnie doesn't have the answer, but the pain of being abandoned speaks volumes. The secrets, the lies, the betrayals hang heavy in her psyche and in her family. She wants to move forward, and the only way she can get there is by writing her own ending to the story, and not depending on anyone else to do it for her.

Does she get there?

Her final response to her mother is extremely telling and a perfect summation of the abandonment theme of the book: "All those years I thought I needed you, what I really needed was to find myself."

Yes, Johnnie finally does come full circle, finding her center in a clearer head and a much calmer spirit.

***

Johnnie Come Lately can be purchased at:
Amazon
Barnes and Noble
BAM

Special $2.99 ebook sale!
now through July 31, 2015

Formats/Prices: $4.95 ebook, $9.75 paperback
Genres: Military Family, Women's Fiction, Literary Fiction
Pages: 292
Release: February 1, 2015
Publisher: Camel Press
ISBN: 9781603812153
Click to add to your Goodreads list.


About the Author

Award-winning author Kathleen M. Rodgers is a former frequent contributor to Family Circle magazine and Military Times. Her work has also appeared in anthologies published by McGraw-Hill, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, Health Communications, Inc., AMG Publishers, and Press 53. She is the author of the award-winning novel, The Final Salute, featured in USA Today, The Associated Press, and Military Times. Deer Hawk Publications reissued the novel in e-book and paperback September of 2014.

Her second novel, Johnnie Come Lately, released from Camel Press February 1, 2015. Barnes and Noble in Southlake, TX hosted the official launch on February 7, and Kathleen signed copies of both novels for three hours straight. In 2014, she was named a Distinguished Alumna from Tarrant County College/NE Campus.

She is the mother of two grown sons, Thomas, a graduate of University of North Texas and a working artist in Denton, TX, and J.P., a graduate of Texas Tech University and a former Army officer who earned a Bronze Star in 2014 in Afghanistan. Kathleen’s husband, Tom, is a retired fighter pilot/commercial airline pilot, and they reside in Colleyville, TX with their rescue dog, Denton. Kathleen is working on a new novel titled Seven Wings to Glory and is represented by Loiacono Literary Agency.

Links to connect with Kathleen:
Web Site
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Blog
Blog Tour Site


About the Giveaway

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4 comments:

  1. Dear Nicole,

    Thank you so much for reading Johnnie Come Lately and for writing your thoughtful review. I love the quotes you pulled from the book and how you incorporated them into your review.

    Take care,

    Kathleen

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    Replies
    1. Kathleen, what a pleasure to read and review such a well written book! I'm so happy you liked it.

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  2. Nicole,

    I sent your review to Camel Press and my agent. Jeanie posted the link on her website: http://www.loiaconoliteraryagency.com/balance-loved-ones-on-the-worry-scale-who-was-more-worthy-who-was-less-johnnie-come-lately-by-kathleen-m-rodgers/

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  3. Niccole, Adding this one to my Amazon wishlist after reading your review. Lately, I've been immersing myself in fiction that explores complicated family dynamics after finishing Mark Calde's Bascomville. I'm on the hunt for more stories that show the readers that there really is no "normal" because the toughest battles we face are usually internal. You would likely appreciate it as much as I did (http://bascomville.myshopify.com) so give it a peak! Cheers~

    ReplyDelete