Forbidden love and long-held secrets abound in Surasky’s (Rage Against the Dying Light, 2012) compelling coming-of-age novel.
For Jenny Thompson, the 1970s are merely the years in which she’s grown up; the freedom the time period offered women has not reached her rural home of Jerusalem, N.Y. Jenny has been brought up on a strict diet of values: marry young, marry well and stay away from outsiders. But she strikes up a friendship with the struggling Mennonite boy next door, Jake Martin, who wants to put himself through law school so as to follow his idealistic passions. But all Jenny’s mother can see is his shabby upbringing and how little he can provide for Jenny, so the friendship remains hidden, blossoming eventually into love on Jake’s part. But Jenny doesn’t return his feelings and opts instead to follow her mother’s insistence; she dates Bud, the golden boy of the town whose family’s wealth and influence are known and admired. Jenny soon learns, though, that following a script doesn’t always lead to happiness, and her traditional marriage suits her mother far more than it does Jenny. The marriage breaks down, and Jenny is now a single mother, living on her own in New York, where she learns about talents that she hadn’t pursued and becomes a successful businesswoman and artist. But loneliness beckons, and Jenny turns to dating, despairing that no man connects with her or makes her feel the way Jake did. Eventually, Jake resurfaces in New York, and Jenny learns the beauty that comes with a second chance. Artfully portrayed with vivid descriptions, Jenny’s growth makes her an intensely likable, realistic character. Her rebellion against her mother’s prejudice adds an additional layer to this romantic novel that helps deepen and enrich the complexity of the central relationship. Jenny’s story not only echoes the archetypal tales of forbidden love, but it also illustrates the dangers of intolerance.
A quiet but moving story of one woman’s reclaiming her life.