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WHISTLING WOMEN: A Novel ~Kelly A. Romo

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015

“A whistling woman and a crowing hen always come to some bad end” ~Proverb

The story begins in a Nudist Camp in California in 1935. The members are preparing to take their healthy lifestyle to the 1935 Worlds Fair in San Diego.  They will be a part of the exhibitions and earn money for their community in Northern California.  Addie has lived in the community for 17 years and has felt safe and happy within the ranks, but now she is learning that she will be asked to leave because she is not so young and beautiful any more and will not make the community needed funding. She does not wish to go to San Diego where her sister lives and will not communicate with her.  There is no choice. she must go if she is to stay on with the group.

The backdrop of historic San Diego and the Exposition makes this a very interesting read.  Romo has done her homework and then interjected a story about being an orphan and domestic abuse, incest and rape.  The reader is taken through a search for love and safety, forgiveness and fear, right up to the door of a family reuniting and healing.

Addie and Wavey’s parents have died.  Wavey is older and more useful on the Uncle’s farm as a worker in the early 1900s and so it is decided that Addie will leave Ohio and go to Kansas to a Orphan Asylum which also takes children who have been involved in crimes.  After many years, Addie has been sent for by her now married sister Wavey to join her family in San Diego.  There is lots of hope in this arrangement.  Wavey’s husband is violent and a rapist and after their daughter is born he begins to attack Addie also.  Addie does something terrible and is sent away to the Ohio farm and to more pain and sorrow.  She runs away heading back to California and finds the Nudist Colony.  Her sister no longer communicates with her-refuses her letters.

Wavey has 2 daughters now, Mary and Rumor.  Rumor is 15 and so excited about going to the exhibition and seeing all the future ideas exposed.  At church they hear about the Nudist exhibit and her friend is restricted from attending the exhibition.  Addie comes to their front door and is hoping for reconciliation with her sister.  Rumor is so excited to meet her aunt and begins a secret relationship with her; boldly visiting the in the exhibition and trying to understand life and her future.

The story was moving and a good read, but I found myself several times finding it too long.   I figured out what was happening and then there would be too much detail and redundancy.  The story would pick up again and would move forward.  I thought the religious sections didn’t really launch though were good transition material but sometimes confused the issue and theme.  That could be another story, the moralizing was important and provided boundaries in the story but also bogged the reader a bit.

I loved the Proverb at the start, thought it a good story and an interesting reflection on history.  Safety is often a tough issue when mixed with poverty and being female. Very readable and good sister dynamics – unraveling the family secrets.

Kelly Romo currently lives in Oregon with her three children, where she teaches writing, literature, and social studies.  She loves the outdoors: hiking, kayaking, and camping.  Kelly grew up in California running around with all her thrill-seeking cousins and siblings; exploring caves on the beaches of Mexico, riding dirt bikes, water skiing and snow skiing.”

“Set against the backdrop of the 1935 world’s fair, Whistling Women explores the complex relationships between sisters, the sacrifices required to protect family, and the lasting consequences of a single impulsive act.” (From Amazon page)

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