Friday, August 26, 2016

Review: Like I Used to Dance by Barbara Frances

"Our kids, my, my, Gracie, where did we go wrong? One marries God, another a Jew, and the last one, the devil!"
Texas, 1951. The Wolanskys-Grace, Bud and their three grown children-are a close-knit clan, deeply rooted in their rural community and traditional faith. On their orderly farm, life seems good and tomorrow always holds promise. But under the surface, it's a different story. Grace is beset by dark memories and nameless fears that she keeps secret even from Bud. Their son Andy has said no to becoming a farmer like his dad and, worse, fallen in love with a big-city Jewish girl. Youngest child Regina is trapped in a loveless marriage to an abusive, alcoholic husband. Even "perfect" daughter Angela's decision to become a nun takes an unforeseen turn.
And then Ceil Dollard breezes into town. Ceil-wealthy, sophisticated, irrepressible-is like a visitor from Mars. She's a modern woman. She drives a car and wears pants. She blows away tradition and certainty, forcing Grace to face her fears and brave a changing world. Through Ceil, Grace learns about courage and freedom-but at the risk of losing Bud. Barbara Frances' sparkling, richly human novel takes you back to a time when Ike was president and life was slower, but people were the same as now. You'll encounter a cast of characters storm-tossed by change, held together by love.
Written with compassion, humor and suspense, Like I Used to Dance will charm you, warm you and even squeeze a few tears, from it opening number to the last waltz.

Rating: 2.5 Stars

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for a free review.

Reading Like I Used to Dance, I thought that the journey these characters took would feel more meaningful, that the people mentioned in the synopsis would be highlighted and I'd feel a real determination to find out what happened to them and where their stories led. Things did not really turn out as I had hoped.

There were quite a lot of side characters that took a lot of attention away from the main characters and were hard to keep track of besides. Bud and Grace each had multiple siblings, all of which had multiple children, then there were the neighbors, friends, etc. The best thing to do was keep track of the main family members and hang on for dear life. I wish there had been a little more focus on some of the primary characters i.e. Andy, who I didn't feel any connection to. It felt as though his scenes were passing mentions rather than passages meant to explain his character and motivation.

The pacing was weird. It felt very similar to the movie Return of the King in that there were many points when I thought the story was done. Maybe there were things that hadn't been answered, but it didn't feel like the story needed to be going anymore. Other times it felt fine and I was alright with it. Around the 34% mark, however, is when I really felt like things were being spread out much farther than they really needed to be. We got so much back story on everyone involved it felt like a water balloon about to burst.

Things finally started to follow a story-line, as it were, but it was not particularly special or engaging. It felt like the plot to a Lifetime movie that might have been interesting, but it had no spark. I felt while reading this that I had read a lot of similar stories before and didn't find anything about this to set it apart from them.

I'd say this was a somewhat decent book but I do wish that a lot of editing had taken place. As I mentioned before, it felt a lot like a Lifetime movie and maybe it would've even been more successful in that medium. As it stands, I wouldn't recommend rushing out anytime soon to pick this up.

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