Once again I’m reviewing a novel by this author thanks to Virtual Author Book Tours, just because I like Vera Jane’s stories very much.
Dancing Backward in Paradise is set in a place called Paradise, in Tennessee in the sixties, and our main character, Grace Place, is about to achieve her mother’s dream: go to New York and be an actress. Grace has just finished the high school and it’s looking for a job in order to save some money for the trip to New York; she is not quite sure about it, but she wants to make her momma happy, so she does what she is told. By the time she gets a job cleaning the house of a very odd young woman whose husband is dying of cancer, she also begins dating Lenny Bean, a handsome boy who unfortunately has dark intentions. Grace manages to make that trip to New York, but she eventually will have to come back to Paradise and face all that she left behind.
In the first half of the book we know this southern place and their inhabitants. Grace’s family live in a trailer, and people in Paradise are hard workers but they have very little culture. We have to take into account that we are in the sixties in a little village, so everybody is aware of others’ affairs and things like homosexuality are not well considered – Grace has a friend who is a lesbian and is always in trouble. The atmosphere of that place is really well described through the characters of the book; only Grace is more or less normal, but we have that bastard of Lenny Bean; Grace’s employer, who can’t be crazier; or Grace’s grandfather, a religious man who spends the days prayin with one hand on the bible and the other on his private parts.
In the second part, in New York, the change – compared to Paradise – shocks the reader as well as Grace. She lives in an apartment instead of in a trailer for a start; there are black people who are not servants of white people and who Grace is warned not to call Negros to, and nobody wants to know about your business. There we get to know other characters that strengthen the idea of her being in an absolutely different place; really comfortable one.
The plot, as always in Vera’s novels, is really gripping, but this time I would like the main character to be less naïve: Grace can’t see the things that are before her eyes; things that everybody else knows and tries to tell her about, but she doesn’t pay attention to. She becomes more perspicacious later on, but in the first part of the book she got me on my nerves several times. Apart from it, I enjoyed the story, and I keep this author as a reference for southern novels.
You can win an ebook (pdf, mobi or epub) of Dancing Backward in Paradise just by saying in the comments you want to enter the giveaway.
The giveaway is open internationally and finishes on May 15.