Blog Stop Book Tours helps authors promote their books by giving bloggers books to review. (If you have a blog and you like free books, you might want to check this out.)
I have the privilege of reviewing The Bunko Babes, by Leah Starr Baker. (See an interview with the author at BlogStop’s main site.)
The Bunko Babes is a departure from my usual reading diet of suspense and humor (but it has a bit of both). It reads like a journal, written entirely in present tense (which would have been annoying if the author hadn’t been completely consistent). The main character, Becca Thornton, is an upbeat (if somewhat shallow and sheltered) woman with twin children, a rock-steady husband, and a fun group of girlfriends – the Bunko Babes - who gather weekly to play Bunko in each other’s homes. Several of the friendships go back years - the characters’ problems and proclivities are paraded out at that night’s Bunko game.
During the game, Becca gets a call from her widowed mother who tells her she is getting remarried. Becca’s reaction to the news sets up one of the major conflicts that both reveal her character and give her plenty of room for growth.
Later in the story, Becca discovers an even more serious crisis she must endure. After months of odd aches and pains and a general fatigue, she's diagnosed with systemic lupus. In some passages, Becca’s symptoms were shown so vividly I felt uncomfortable reading them. Which is great. What wasn’t so great is that when Becca talks to friends and family about the disease, her dialogue reads like a brochure.
I had other problems with the book that sometimes kept me from engaging fully. For one, it wasn’t clear to me whether the author intentionally gave Becca the unlikeable characteristics of an unthankful, judgmental and self-centered child. And my two favorite characters – the mother’s new fiancé and Becca’s friend Mercedes – weren’t given nearly enough attention in my opinion. Alternatively, there was a park ranger and his wife who were described in detail but never seemed to play any real part in the novel.
Despite these things, I found myself wondering what would happen next. In a way, it was like reading letters from an acquaintance. Many of the situations seemed to be drawn from the author’s own life and her personal struggle with lupus.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Bunko Babes, and after reading it, I’m still not sure what I got. It was refreshing to read a book with Christian characters triumphing in very realistic circumstances. And throughout the novel, Becca has moments when she not only realizes that she was wrong, but understands how to begin to make the changes in her thinking. The Bunko Babes shows her subtle but relentless growth as a person and as a Christian, moving from being self-centered to truly interested in the happiness and well-being of others. Her friends and her family gather around her for support throughout the book, but only towards the end of the story does she seem to really realize what they bring to her life – despite her repeated assurances to the contrary. It isn’t until the end of the book that she really cares about their happiness and well-being.
The Bunko Babes was an interesting look into the growth of a woman’s character from leading a sheltered existence to being a woman with the strength to stand up under hardship and get outside of herself to care about others. It didn’t grip me from the first few pages, but it grew on me.
Friday, July 11, 2008
Posted by Carolyn Erickson at 6:39 PM