Back in the Sixties while Motown music filled the airwaves, naïve Jill Novak acknowledged her knack for choosing losers when boring Husband Number One vanished, leaving her to support their two-year-old. Afflicted with planning deficit disorder, the perpetual daydreamer soon morphs from small town Jill to sophisticated big city Cherie, but a new name does not a new life bring. In 1969 Houston, Cherie encounters a rogue’s gallery of strange, wonderful and sometimes dangerous characters; a suave salesman who turns brutal, a drop-dead gorgeous transsexual, a hairy cop who incorporates fondling girls into his job, a walleyed girl whose peepers inevitably park on men’s private parts, a wannabe Mafia hit man, and a warped neighbor whose desire for friendship borders on stalking. But it is two distinctly different men—a middle-age gregarious gambler and a twenty-something gruff intellectual—who jump on board and share Jill-Cherie’s rollicking roller coaster ride into the 21st Century and womanhood.
Filled with moments from the laid-back Age of Aquarius through the materialistic, high-speed Internet era, The Jewel Box music and references to the times/political climate reflect the rocky terrain of the country (and subsequent growth) parallel with that of its main character. This romantic family saga reminds us true love rarely runs smooth, true friendship never wavers, occasionally everyone screws up, and sometimes slipping off track leads to profound appreciation as we approach our destination.
I didn’t know how to react when I started to read this book. An important set piece in the story is a topless bar by the name of THE JEWEL BOX. Being a bit prudish myself, I was a bit hesitant that this book would be bordering upon the obscene. I mean, come on, the time is the sixties and an important setting is a topless bar. Anyone would think that at first.
I was wrong. This book is a coming of age for an already adult woman. It is about relationships among family and friends. It is about maturing and recognizing your faults in life, but still move on to make it better. THE JEWEL BOX is about life.
I can’t really describe what the book means to me, only that it was prevalent. I loved the wisdom of Beau, the older father like figure. There was countless pop culture and political references that helped pinpoint when in time you are at. Which was helpful and reminded me of a loved movie also set in a Southern state, FORREST GUMP (the references is really the only similarity). There was love and love loss in many forms. I found myself rooting for the main love interest, but the romance wasn’t smutty romance or Harlequin esque. It was real.
McCarty’s writing style made it very easy to read. I was hooked very early on and didn’t want to stop reading. She seamlessly wrote the scenes and never made the sad ones any less sad, but didn’t put in melodrama. I can’t reiterate how much this book is to life. It’s not my life, but it’s a life I can see. I read a review on this book before reading and that reader had a good point. You go into reading this book as a book, but leave with knowing a person.