The Dog Doesn’t Die

Book reviews & random thoughts

Does the Dog Die? A Brief Review of Riding with the Queen by Jennie Shortridge

A few months ago, I reviewed Jennie Shortridge’s Eating Heaven, which I loved and recommended. As it turns out, Shortridge found the review and made a comment, leading me to conclude that she occasionally Googles herself – perfectly reasonable in the case of an author. So let me get this out of the way up front in case she shows up again: I liked this book a lot and I’m going to recommend it with no reservations.

 However … at the beginning of Riding with the Queen, which I read because Eating Heaven was so good, I was less than thrilled. The book, Shortridge’s first, gave every indication of being a Prodigal Daughter book. And I hate Prodigal Daughter books! I stuck with it, though, and by the end I had to conclude one of two things: either this is the best Prodigal Daughter book ever, or it’s so complex that it doesn’t fall into that category, early chapters notwithstanding. Let’s go with Option 2, shall we?

So what happens here? At age 17, narrator Tallie Beck ran away from her massively dysfunctional family and took to the road as a singer. And at age 34, down on her luck and in need of whatever break she can get, she returns. Lo and behold, the massively dysfunctional family appears to have healed itself in her absence, and now she’s the one with all the problems. See why I thought this was going to be a Prodigal Daughter book?

Fortunately, as soon as all this is established, Shortridge starts adding plot twists, a sometimes snarky imaginary friend/guardian angel, ever-lengthening glimpses of the family’s shaky foundation, and a gaggle of new characters to challenge Tallie’s me-versus-them mentality. Helping to flesh things out are the denizens of the rather odd piano bar where Tallie works, a clutch of visual artists, a homeless man trying to pull his life together, middle-aged lesbians, the young niece who uses Tallie as a datapoint in calibrating the world, and the evil ex-husband. In the end, I was glad I read the book, though I still prefer Eating Heaven. But if you’ve already read and enjoyed that novel, try this one, too.

One of the purposes of this blog is to warn animal lovers about disturbing things happening in books. And that is not a problem here. Apparently, there are horse-drawn carriages in Denver. Past that, this book is completely devoid of animals. So I am declaring Riding with the Queen SAFE for animal lovers. Enjoy!

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August 7, 2009 - Posted by | beach book, Book Reviews | , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. So, here’s the deal. Most authors (and others more or less in the public eye) subscribe to Google Alert, so we get these little notices in our email every morning when our name or a book title pops up in the e-cosmos. I will admit that I DID google myself a few times after my first book came out, just to gaze with wonder and disbelief at the reality of my book being in the world, and seeing people’s reactions to it. I’m on book four now and no longer feel so inclined. Or I’m just to busy. Something like that.

    Anyway, thanks as always for your very thoughtful review of my book. I so appreciate readers like you who really think about not just the exterior level of story, but the underlying themes and possibilities, the intentions of the author, the subterranean emotional landscape.

    I hope you’ll read my latest book, When She Flew, which is out Nov. 3! And my previous book, Love & Biology at the Center of the Universe. If you’d like, I can send you review copies . . .
    Cheers, and thanks for loving books.
    Jennie

    Comment by Jennie Shortridge | October 10, 2009 | Reply


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