Trenton Reads

Our literary adventures …

Review: Riding with the Queen

 

A few months ago, I purchased used copies of two novels by Jennie Shortridge on Half.com. I read Eating Heaven first; it failed to impress. It was good, but not exceptional. I would not have sought out other books by Shortridge based on this first taste of her writing. But, since Riding with the Queen was sitting on my bookshelf, I decided to give Shortridge a second chance. I am so glad I did.

While Eating Heaven felt stodgy and stale, cautious, formulaic in a way I couldn’t quite put my finger on, Riding with the Queen was fresh, original, in your face. I immediately liked Tallie, the main character; she made me smile with her superficially flippant attitude toward life and her acerbic sense of humor.

A used-up singer fired from her lead singer position in a traveling band, Tallie returns home to Denver to face the ghosts of her past. A mother who struggled throughout Tallie’s childhood with undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder. A sister who resented Tallie for ditching the family to pursue her singing career. A selfish, egotistic ex-husband who wants to exploit Tallie’s musical talent.

In Denver, Tallie takes a job in a piano bar. Resentful and condescending at first, Tallie eventually grows fond of her new singing gig and the people she works with. She also struggles to make peace with her mother and sister, to come to terms with a past that left her bitter, cautious and resentful. Through her mother, she meets a great guy who happens to struggle with the very disorder that ruined Tallie’s childhood, although he, like her mother, is handling life well thanks to proper medication.

Tallie is fresh, falliable, funny. She is irreverent and flawed, scarred by her past, afraid to trust anyone, afraid to trust that her life could turn out well. Shortridge excels at creating a compelling and believable cast of characters. No one is perfect. These people have messy lives and conflicted emotions. There are no fairy tale endings here, but Riding with the Queen is a memorable book about forgiving and trusting, healing and starting over again, that is hard to put down and difficult not to love.

Reading Group Guide and Author Interview

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1 Comment»

  Jennie Shortridge wrote @

I love this look at my first two novels–yes, they are as different as can be from one another, and I always find that people are EITHER RWTQueen people OR Eating Heaven people. In fact, after talking with a reader for a few moments, I can successfully prescribe the right book for them, of the two. That makes me happy as a writer, to know that I’m not cranking out a formula, but rather delving into characters’ very different and individuated lives.

I hope you’ll check out the new one, Love & Biology at the Center of the Universe. Thanks for caring about books and sharing your thoughts!


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