Monday, February 5, 2018

Book Review: 'Frankie Jones' by J.R. Klein

Texas author J. R. Klein holds a doctoral degree in Immunology from Johns Hopkins University and in that vein he has published over a hundred and fifty articles in scholarly journals and mainstream magazines. He authored a play, Teach Your Children, about the Vietnam War. His love of the sea is evident in this, his debut novel, which spans the country from East to West coasts.

When an author is able to magnetize our attention in the first page or two then we read on with a sense of promise. JR opens his book as follows: ‘It was a ghastly cold day in the middle of a ghastly long winter in 1993. And there I was at Harvard Square by the newsstand near the T stop across from the COOP. A biting mad-dog wind snapped down the street mean as a blister, as I stood there like some odd fool accepting this punishment. Though I remember nearly everything about that day, strangely, I cannot remember what brought me to the square, or why I confronted nature head-on in one of her most capricious moods. Standing on the street corner like a lost soul. Strange for me to do that— me, a man of purpose. Yes, one whose life is tight as a plumb line. Indeed, for me it’s the inner self that waffles at seemingly incongruent things. Someone who knows his life a year from now but can’t make sense of the next ten minutes. Everyone close to me knows this, and of course I know it too, though I try to hide it, considering it an obvious weakness of character. In truth, the only weakness of the whole trivial matter is that I worry about it at all.’

Beautiful writing, strong character development and a sense of immediacy and the result is the reader’s need to push into this excellent story: ‘Frankie Jones is searching for something—something elusive. Abandoned as an infant by his father, orphaned after his mother died when he was a child, Frankie grows up tough, edgy, and street smart. The quintessential self-made man, he lives life to the fullest. Frankie becomes a journalist, hoping to be the next great American writer. While in Boston, he meets Mercedes Brewster. Refined, sophisticated, and from a prominent New England family, she is the complete opposite of Frankie. He can't help falling for her, but can he keep his wanderlust in check? Yet, it is the American Dream that Frankie seeks more than anything. Get the career. Get the success. And most importantly, get the girl. In California, Frankie becomes friends with Owen Brookes. Gutsy, brazen, and at times reckless, Owen is Frankie’s alter ego. It is Owen who challenges Frankie’s belief in the American Dream. Will either of them achieve what they want? What must they give up in pursuit? Some lessons you learn the hard way, but it is how you react in the face of adversity that ultimately matters.’

FRANKIE JONES is a major achievement, one novel about hope, love, friendship, and betrayal—a story of life itself. Grady Harp, July 16

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.

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