Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Book Review: 'Life in A Box' by JoDee Neathery

Texas author JoDee Neatherly has had a career in banking, the recruiting business with an exclusive contract with TracyLocke Public Relations and Bustin & Company in Dallas, and Creamer Dickson Basford in New York, public relations for a non-profit, and writing freelance articles for the newspaper, trade publications, newsletters, and chairing, writing minutes, and reviews for her ninety-three member book club, Bookers, for the past thirteen years. She also enjoys a byline, Back Porch Musings, a light-hearted view of life in general, in an area newspaper. Now she makes an auspicious debut with LIFE IN A BOX.

For this first novel she states she ‘has taken the personalities of several of the characters from my own family, but most of the actual events detailed in the novel are fabricated. The relationship between twins Victoria Jeanne and Benjamin Thomas is realistic as is that of Catherine and Fulton. Andee Camp's insecurities and desire to write a novel mirrors my own. The Brown twins are fictional but Will's character epitomizes my own father's sense of humor and nature. Hilda Hatter Otter was a "real" imaginary friend to my Aunt Kaga.’
Because her story involves two families – the Browns and the Smiths - she presents family trees before the journey begins, and then she opens her tale in Athena, Texas in 2001 with sparkling prose: ‘Andee Camp cradled a leather-bound book as if the spine anchoring her novel together cracked, the narrative would be lost. She likened her joy to the rapture of discovering a Tiffany glass skylight concealed by layers of paint intended to hide its presence and beauty. From her bedroom window, she spotted a white-tailed doe enjoying a meal of tropical plumeria with her speckled fawn. The pair looked up when she tapped on the glass, darting off searching for a yellow rosebud lunch. She and husband Scott reveled in the tranquility of their home near a sleepy lake and golf course community in East Texas, moons away from their hectic travel schedules. The neighborhood treasures, blue herons and white egrets dipping in among the native hickory, oak, and pine canopies, mockingbirds chasing squirrels, twittering cardinals and robins, created a home like Thoreau’s Walden. Summer months dripped with heat and humidity, and in the fall, flocks of white pelicans migrating from Canada stopped by before journeying farther south. Andee had turned her passion of the written word into a career reviewing literature, adopting a character’s persona and offering a unique point of view and innovative presentations. Scott, an Alabama product with a family golf pedigree, enjoyed a partnership with Andee’s father in an international golf course design business. Both calendars demanded the organizational skills of a presidential assistant. However, another reoccurrence of melanoma threatened to derail her future. Andee now qualified for an immunotherapy clinical trial combining radiation and drugs. The doctors hoped, by taking advantage of the great strides in metastasis research, this treatment protocol would eliminate the tumors tied to the deadliest form of skin cancers.’

The synopsis gels the book’s course well – ‘Love drama touched with tenderness and laughter? How far would you go to protect a secret? It is a parallel story of a mother's challenge to her daughter to fulfill a dream and a saga of two sets of twins born on the same day seventeen-hundred miles apart whose lives connect in Southern California forming a bond lasting three-quarters of a century. Andee Camp inherits a box of family history after tragedy strikes along with a challenge to write a novel based on her ancestors. To fulfill this dream, she would exchange her book reviewer hat for one of a writer, forcing the seeds of self-doubt aside. With obstacles littering her path, she discovers the mystery surrounding her relationship with her parents and theirs with each other alongside new pieces in a complicated puzzle.’

Reading JoDee’s book creates a hunger for more: let’s hope this fine novel will be followed by others. Grady Harp, January 18
This book is free to borrow form Kindle Unlimited

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.