While the book briefly starts in a rather dry and flat manner ... it quickly lights up into a dynamic and vivid story which will capture most readers interest and hold it to the very end. Most readers will be caught up in the dramatic interracial love affair between Kathy Woodridge, the daughter of a Northwestern University professor and Richard Johnson, the son of a non-commissioned black career Army officer. They met in September 1972 in Baton Rouge Louisiana in a psychology class. Their meeting was a most symbolic and symbiotic experience. Kathy eventually introduced Richard to her family where he received a mixed reception of acceptance. When there was a loud crash from some shutters - Richard dove for cover under the dining room table, breaking porcelain dishes and over turning whatever food had been placed on the table. Only Sam, Kathy's sister's fiance totally understood what happened and asked the telling question, "Nam?" To which Richard replied, "Yes" as he walked off in embarrassment to wash off cranberry sauce and other food stuck to his good suit.
With this inauspicious beginning, the couple continued dating and engaged in a physical love affair that led to Kathy's pregnancy, outside of marriage. She looked forward to having his child but had serious reservations about her relationship with Richard after he suggested she could have an abortion, that he would understand ... While her father accepted Richard, her mother was obviously tight-lipped and disapproving. Richard had long ago cut off relations with his family. Essentially he felt his father disowned him when he joined the Army and was sent to Viet Nam. He did not do what his father had urged, finish college and become a commissioned officer. His stint in Viet Nam left invisible emotional scars - which usually surfaced at night. He sufferred from post traumatic stress syndrome but would not seek help. He and Kathy put their college plans on hold to have their baby. They moved to the French Quarter of New Orleans where, as an interracial couple, they would be more accepted by society.
The plot and story line are very engaging with believable and well fleshed out characters who have complex family dynamics. They live in the turbulent times of the early and mid 1970s, during the post Civil Rights and post hippie movements. The unsettled turmoil of the Viet Nam War continues to haunt the landscape in which everyone lives. The author adds a new dimension of excitement: the city of New Orleans and its social milieu, along with some very eccentric and totally captivating personalities. First, Kathy found a job working for Eddie Graziano, who ran a produce stand in the French Quarter where he sold fresh vegetables shipped in from his brother's farm in Mississippi, along with wholesale produce. Later, Richard and Kathy moved to Gretna, a town not far from New Orleans where the rent was cheaper. They found most unusual jobs ... as puppeteers working for a couple who became their good friends. Martin was an Australian born journalist who was injured during the Tet Offensive and wheel chair bound. His injury occured while he was a journalist in Viet Nam. It is where he met his Vietnamese wife, Thu. They are the parents of twin boys. Kathy and Richard rented a small house with a backyard from Francine Boudreaux, a person of Creole and Spanish mixture. Eventually, this unusual mix of people became fast friends, and grew fond of each other, sharing meals and getting together socially ... They called themselves "the Motley family".
However, an awful event occured ... a death which left them all stunned. It caused Kathy to flee to San Pedro, California via Greyhound Bus, to start a new life, at the ripe young age of twenty. She was dropped off at the end of the line - on Pacific Avenue, a rather run down neighborhood. She found a place to rent and an average job as secretarial assistant in the Giannini Construction Firm. Lacey was the executive secretary who took an interest in Kathy, the waif-like orphan who seemed to turn up out of nowhere with no family. She quietly and efficiently did her work she seemed very sad ... Lacey protected her young assistant but also engaged in detective work behind the scenes to piece together Kathy's story. The story Kathy herself would not share or talk about.
In the end, Kathy makes peace with the emotionally devastating events which rocked her world - from which she sought escape. This story has a gut-wrenching surprise event which blew Kathy's world apart. It is a rich and powerful story told in a suspense-filled manner. Clues are dropped but there is no way any reader can predict or anticipate the powerful blow which altered Kathy's world forever but with which she eventually made peace. This is a most highly recommended novel. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]
I was extremely surprised by the quality of the writing of Anne L. Watson. She delivered the complete package, a well-crafted plot, with proficiently developed characters, and the use of a writing style that has nothing to be jealous of the greats in the genre. The fact that I read this novel in one sitting, really speaks to how much I liked it and the kind of grip that the story gets on the reader. I have had this happen to me before with several mystery novels, but this was one of the few times I experienced it with literary fiction.
When Kathy arrives at San Pedro and rents a room in Pacific Avenue, she is at the bottom of a deep hole. A series of terrible events have affected her life and she is trying to find the strength to move forward and forge a new future. This is where she meets Lacey, a middle-aged woman that is going through a crisis herself, after her daughter left for college and "does not need her anymore". Kathy is the perfect pet project for Lacey, who does not need long to see that the youngster carries a heavy burden and is in desperate need of help. Thus, starts this novel, which alternates the narration in first person between these two complex and mesmerizing characters. The story also goes back and forth in time, between past and present, and as we learn more about Kathy's misfortune, we get drawn deeper and deeper into this wonderful novel.
There are several interesting topics intertwined in this story, such as interracial marriages, the effects of war, and infant death. The author treats these topics seriously and delves deep into how they affect the characters of her story.
I do not feel I exaggerate when I say that this is one of the best books I have read in the last few years. I am looking forward to discovering more works by this great author.
I found this book to be captivating. Pacic Avenye is so raw in it's emotions, it was as if the author was writing her own story. I had to keep reminding myself this was a piece of fiction. It is not a predictable story in any way. Each new page captures you and leads you to the next.
This book has some scarred figures and will take you on an emotional ride. Richard, the young African American student, just back from Viet Nam. He is estranged from his family, and his nights are filled with the horrors he experienxed during the war while he sleeps. Even during the day he is haunted.
Kathy, is a young white college student whom her mother never liked. She never measured up to her mother's standards. Kathy was taught as a child that the color of a persons skin did not matter. She begins a relationship with Richard and invites him to dinner at her parent's house. Her mother did not seem pleased, but her father accepted him. To her mother racism becomes prevalent.
This book shows us the dynamics of a generation that is just beginning to step out of the mold that has plagued both blacks and whites as a couple. It is a story of the love and tragedy that two people share. One black and one white.
They both quit school and moved to New Orleans, Louisiana in hopes they can be accepted as a couple. They found the freedom they sought until one tragic night. They part, but not for the reasons anyone who is reading this may think.
Kathy jumps on the first bus leaving. She is running away from her past, and the events that have destroyed her world. She arrives in San Pedro, California not knowing what she will do. She is a young woman who is mourning her loss. Her pain will not go away, and she does not know how to pick up the pieces and begin a new life.
How she does it is her story, the story of Pacific Avenue. The author has sought to entertain you and keep your attention focused of the book. She has done so until the very last page.
I cannot believe that this book was a free download! It is extraordinarily well-written, the characters believable, likeable but fallible, and it captures the atmosphere of the time it describes. The story was enthralling and I got very caught up in it - reading in tears well into the early hours, and furious at how the world treated this couple.
I enjoyed this. It was well written with swaps between the different time frames. I liked that the ending was open no formulaic happy ever after. I hope there isn't a sequel as I like the idea that I will not know what happened next
Couldn't put my Kindle down until I'd finished this novel; having read 'Skeeter: A Cat Tale' first, I wanted to read more from this author, and I wasn't disappointed! I promptly downloaded the third novel, can't wait to get to it.