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.
Review: This started out as a slow read but picked up speed once most of the characters were introduced. The book was set in Texas and there were a lot of family secrets and heartache. Johnnie, who seems to have it all with a loving husband and three children, has had a life filled with suffering. Never knowing her father or who he even is left a hole. Her uncle died but her grandparents never spoke of him and her mom ran away when she was young so her grandparents raised her. Her beloved grandfather died which also left her with pain. Her grandmother is a huge part of this story as well as her elusive mom who is sighted more than once around town. Add to this that Johnnie suffered from bulimia and still has flashbacks and it all helped to shape her to who she is.
Not only does her family have secrets but we find out that she does too and it rocks her world when it’s revealed. The family dynamics seem strong but there is always undercurrents of unhappiness and doubt. Her husband Dale is always supportive and provides a good living but her unhappiness that she didn’t go to college is always there as is her years of her illness. When she upends his world it takes a lot to make them and their family a unit again. There’s always a blackness and turmoil roiling through Johnnie and she writes letters to different people, living and dead, to help her heal. Many were heartbreaking and really showed us where she was at.
There were family, including their dog, and friends, including her best friend, Whit, the military, secrets, lies, truths, anger, sadness, fears, tears, Mr. Marvel their eccentric neighbor, happiness, laughter, family dynamics and throughout love shown in different ways based on the relationship. The characters are multifaceted and we get to know them little by little. There are a few twists and turns to the storyline but Johnnie is always at the core. The dock and the lake along with birds play a prominent role in the story as does the Soldier statue. It was sometimes confusing to have the story go back and forth between the past and present but for the most part it worked and the prologue set in 1979 in the form of a letter helped set the stage and the book spanned almost thirty years. There were a few loose ends that weren’t tied up by the end of the story but there was some closure even though the book ended a little abruptly.
I was happy to see that there will be a sequel, Seven Wings to Glory, and I look forward to reading it. Her first book, The Final Salute, has been added to my always growing TBR pile.
Favorite Quote: Johnnie spoke first. “There’s been so much information withheld from me all my life. Then I went and did the same thing to Dale. But my biggest concern now is to take care of my family. Make things right again.”
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 & 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.