Jesse’s Girl by Gary Morgenstein

Jesse's Girl

Blurb from Amazon:

The story opens as a jarring phone wakes lifelong Brooklynite and widowed father Teddy Mentor well after midnight. It’s the Montana wilderness program saying that his 16-year-old adopted son has run away – and they haven’t a clue where he’s gone. Only two weeks ago, Jesse had been taken to the program by escorts to deal with substance abuse problems. Jeopardizing his flagging PR job in New York, Mentor rushes across the country to find Jesse, who is off on his own quest: to find Theresa, the sister he’s never known. When Teddy finally discovers Jesse at a bus stop in Illinois, he is torn between sending him back or joining his son on a journey to find this girl in Kentucky. But he decides to go and they become embroiled in a grisly crime when Theresa’s abusive husband Beau attacks her – Jesse stabs the big beast of a man, leaving him for dead.

My review:

Jesse’s Girl is a very dark, fast paced thriller which despite some weaknesses kept me hooked from start to finish. It portrays middle aged Teddy who is struggling to keep his son, and himself, afloat after the death of his wife: teenage Jesse has gone wild as he sinks deeper and deeper into drugs and searches for his biological family, and his father is overwhelmed by his position as a single parent.

I was slightly worried as I started this that it would be too much of a sentimental drama on the issues of addiction and adoption… Both difficult themes to write about. But it is in fact a captivating novel which shows us the characters’ struggles rather than over analysing them. Teddy and Jesse’s conflictual relationship in particular, is shown rather than discussed. The reasons behind Jesse’s family search, Teddy’s complicated feelings over his dead wife, Theresa’s motivations… are all implied rather than forced upon the reader.

This means that all is not resolved by the end of the book, some developments remain partly unexplained, some characters are still somewhat a mystery… But it is up to each reader, as in real life, to interpret the facts in his own way.

All the characters are nicely shaded and often intriguing. Theresa in particular, at first sight a bit of a Mary-Sue, evolves in a wonderful character. Even Beau, a truly despicable villain, is portrayed with just the right sliver of feelings which, whilst far from enough to redeem him, make him more human in the reader’s eyes.

Unfortunately the style is sometimes inconsistent, lapsing in cheesy comments which don’t really fit in with the general atmosphere of the book. And the reading is slightly impaired by some typos and a lot of swearing. I’m sure that this last point would depend on each reader’s sensibility and a limited amount of it does serve the atmosphere and fit the characters, but at some points I just felt it was too much.

Overall though, Jesse’s Girl remains a gripping novel which kept me on the edge of my seat over the few days it took me to finish it… More so than any other book I read recently!

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