Reviewed by Diane Snyder
(This book was a finalist in the Indie Excellence 2007 Book Awards)
The setting is Hixson, Tennessee, in the mid-1960s, but this story could be set anywhere, with any dialect.
The story is the step beyond the “coming-of-age” period for Grace Henrietta Place, who has lived all of her life in Paradise Trailer Park with her parents and her brother. Her life has been uneventful, and she and the country are still clinging to the last remnants of their innocence. It’s a small-town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone and relationships are complex, complicating and confusing. These are not genteel Southern people but earthy and unsophisticated folk who use explicit language.
Grace’s mother has had one goal for her daughter—to go to New York and become an actress. For Grace, getting to New York requires much more than just saving the money to go. People and unforeseen events keep threatening her move to New York. Grace has a new boy friend, Lennie Bean, whom she finds is not only unscrupulous but may be planning a murder. She enlists the help of her mother and a new friend, Ginny Jo (who thinks she is the only lesbian in Hixson), to prevent the murder. Determined not to disappoint her mother, Grace and Ginny Jo, in a junky car with little money and a Chihuahua, leave Paradise for New York. Grace’s loyalty, compassion and determination bring her into a new circle of friends in New York as she creates her new life.
The author introduces a parade of personalities that you will recognize—people that you will want to know and that you will miss. The life and richness she gives to the people of Paradise will take you in like a welcomed stranger. You will love knowing Grace, her family and her friends, both in Hixson and in New York.
Life has its tragedies, humor and mysteries, and this story has all of that. Some really good novels slip through the cracks, don’t let this be one of them.
Armchair Interviews says: Dancing Backward in Paradise is a story you do not want to miss.
Author’s Web site: http://www.VeraJaneCook.com