Cory Bordonaro

At the drop of a party hat, 75-year-old Ellie Jerome gets a birthday wish come true—the opportunity to re-experience youth . . . as a 29-year-old living in the present day. Her flippant mental itch to be young again turns into reality when she wakes up the morning after her birthday party without the familiar wrinkles, aches and dietary concerns of her former self. She is astonished to realize she now inhabits the thin, beautiful body of her younger self. And she is also ecstatic for the chance to spend some carefree “peer” time with her 25-year-old granddaughter, Lucy.

Ellie quickly adapts to her enjoyable routine of shopping for form-flattering clothes, eating without regard to cholesterol and flirting with handsome “younger men.” But by day’s end, the initial thrill has worn off, and Ellie feels the strain of occupying a young body with the mind and memories of a grandmother. She’s confronted with her past and forced to see her present through new eyes, giving focus to a lifetime of relationships and regrets. Though tempted to forgo her own history for a chance at a new future, she is unable to neglect what made her into the 75-year-old woman she was—and is on the inside.

A seasoned journalist, Adena Halpern demonstrates a realistic and humorous understanding of her subject matter. Her research shows in the way she makes generational observations while maintaining a consciously comedic and light-hearted tone. While the plot line is fantastical, the poignant commentaries on age, agelessness and family are far from it.

If 50 is the new 40, and 40 is the new 30, the story of 29 offers a relatable and relevant look at the age-old search for the fountain of youth.

At the drop of a party hat, 75-year-old Ellie Jerome gets a birthday wish come true—the opportunity to re-experience youth . . . as a 29-year-old living in the present day. Her flippant mental itch to be young again turns into reality when she wakes up the morning after her birthday party without the familiar […]

On the heels of her 2008 debut novel, Girls in Trucks, Katie Crouch’s Men and Dogs echoes with the familiar drawl of a discontented and displaced Southerner. The story’s protagonist is middle-aged, Charleston-raised Hannah Legare, who made a move to the West Coast to try and shed the baggage of her father-gone-missing family and the subsequent attempts to sugarcoat the mess. She is, however, continually plagued by the unresolved mysteries of her father’s disappearance and her mother’s quick remarriage to his filthy-rich replacement.

The semi-scandal surrounding her gay brother, coupled with a lack of closure in her relationships, are just fuel for the fire that burns Hannah’s bridges and drives her further and further away from home. But a life apart from her less-than-perfect family situation does not provide the answers she seeks. When her livelihood and marriage in San Francisco go south, Hannah falls from grace—literally. A traumatic injury, a failed business and the inconclusiveness of her family’s story line eventually land Hannah—somewhat unwillingly—back on the front stoop of her mother and stepfather’s Southern plantation home. Despite her self-destructive and escapist behavior, she realizes it is the very people and places of her childhood that beckon her to sit and visit with her own ghosts. She may not arrive at the end she desires, but Hannah will learn something by revisiting the place from which she so speedily fled.

Crouch’s writing quite clearly reflects her own history—she is a former Southerner who can’t shed the remnants of a sweet-tea-soaked past—but her perspective is thoughtful and multidimensional. Her protagonist demonstrates a real skepticism for a culture that hides rumors and ruckus behind sweater sets and pearls, while her prose exhibits both an understanding and a distrust of the syrupy-sweet culture in which she herself was steeped.

Cory Bordonaro is a freelance writer, crafter and barista in Birmingham, Alabama.

On the heels of her 2008 debut novel, Girls in Trucks, Katie Crouch’s Men and Dogs echoes with the familiar drawl of a discontented and displaced Southerner. The story’s protagonist is middle-aged, Charleston-raised Hannah Legare, who made a move to the West Coast to try and shed the baggage of her father-gone-missing family and the […]

A single bottle rocket sends flaming flickers of white light into the air. Soon after, a dotted line of fire travels silently and slowly to a great height, where, with a heart-thumping blast, it explodes into brilliance. Firefly-like bursts fall gracefully to the ground while another stream makes its way north to awe spectators with its beauty. A fireworks display may begin unassumingly, but as it builds momentum toward the grand finale, the oohs and aahs ensue. The Book of Fires, the debut novel by British author Jane Borodale, follows a similar pattern: Expositional descriptions build the framework for a layered narrative that moves toward a striking finish.

Born in the English countryside, Agnes Trussel is a young woman who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant at 17. Fleeing the ignominy of her situation to seek refuge on the unfamiliar streets of mid-18th-century London, she finds an unlikely haven in the home of a widowed pyrotechnist, John Blacklock. Agnes soon falls into an improbable career as his assistant, finding her quick and nimble hands adept to the task of helping Mr. Blacklock with his trade. He, too, is taken with her aptitude for the work, entrusting her with more and more responsibility in the shop. Immersed in the science and production of fireworks, she encourages his quest to discover how to add vibrancy to his colorless pyrotechnics.

All the while, Agnes keeps her growing secret under wraps. Her appetite for learning, coupled with the shame associated with her unwed pregnancy, fuels her crazed search for a solution to her seemingly impossible lot. The hope of a new life begins to illuminate what was once dismal.

The Book of Fires is a quietly beautiful novel. Borodale’s elegant use of language and inventive storytelling captures the tale of a young woman smoldering with desire for a life painted with vivid colors.

Cory Bordonaro is a freelance writer, crafter and barista in Birmingham, Alabama.

A single bottle rocket sends flaming flickers of white light into the air. Soon after, a dotted line of fire travels silently and slowly to a great height, where, with a heart-thumping blast, it explodes into brilliance. Firefly-like bursts fall gracefully to the ground while another stream makes its way north to awe spectators with […]

In her latest novel, Angel Time, author Anne Rice strays from the vampire-laden subject matter of her past and plumbs the heart and mind of a killer transformed. “Lucky,” or Toby O’Dare, makes his engrossing entrance as a heartless hitman with a checkered past.

A boyhood bent toward the priesthood goes awry when his drunkard mother derails his path with repeated selfishness. When a series of events leads Toby to meet an eventual faux-father figure, he falls into a life of cruel anonymous crime. His gradual shift from a spiritual boy to a cold assassin gives insight into how easily wrong can be justified and absorbed into the mundane.

In stark contrast to his murderous lifestyle is his ever-present, yet latent, interest in all things sacred. He often seeks solace at The Mission Inn, a local getaway marked by a tranquil monasterial atmosphere. Toby also habitually reads history books, enjoying the neat and tidy accounts historians glean from the trials and tumult of the past. His need for conclusion speaks volumes about a complex character whose troubled past perpetuates his hardness of heart.

One night, after completing an assignment to kill, Toby is visited by an angel called Malachi. His life is quickly catapulted to the Middle Ages, where he adopts an alternate existence as a friar. He is prompted by Malachi to look outside of himself and see the suffering of a couple of persecuted Jews in the town of Norwich, England. Toby quickly comes to realize that his past can be redeemed by choosing to help save lives rather than take them.

Rice masterfully weaves together the elements of Toby’s story to demonstrate the irrelevance of time as we experience it. She communicates the poignant truth that a character can indeed be extracted from an old life—saved to another for the task of intervening in evil to bring forth greater good.

Cory Bordonaro is a freelance writer, crafter and barista in Birmingham, Alabama.

In her latest novel, Angel Time, author Anne Rice strays from the vampire-laden subject matter of her past and plumbs the heart and mind of a killer transformed. “Lucky,” or Toby O’Dare, makes his engrossing entrance as a heartless hitman with a checkered past. A boyhood bent toward the priesthood goes awry when his drunkard […]

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