Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Whistling Women by Kelly Romo

Whistling Women by Kelly Romo. Lake Union Publishing, 2015. 404 pages. Ebook. 

**I received a copy of Whistling Women courtesy of NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing.**

Whistling Women is a story centered on two sisters, Wavey and Addie, who have had a troubled history together and no longer speak or see one another. Addie has joined the Sleepy Valley Nudist Colony in San Francisco while Wavey has remained in San Diego to raise her two daughters, Mary and Rumor. Addie's nudist colony, however, decides to join the 1935 world's fair in San Diego as a nudist exhibition that people can pay to view at the fair, which of course is extremely controversial in the year 1935. 

I was pleasantly surprised by this novel. Whistling Women is told in a somewhat leisurely pace, but it is still gripping and hard to put down. Each of the women in the novel were multi-dimensional, and Romo shows great dynamics and complexity within each character as the story progresses.

The story is told from the perspectives of Addie and Rumor, Wavey's youngest daughter who is sixteen years old. The perspective of Addie switches back and forth between the present year, 1935, and brief excerpts of her past in order to explain her and Wavey's complicated relationship and falling out in 1918, as well as a bit of background about Addie's upbringing. Rumor's perspective is told entirely from the present 1935 perspective. I struggled a bit with remembering exactly how old Rumor is, but I think that this is likely more of a product of the time period than the Romo's writing. Rumor is fifteen years old, but due to her innocence and way of speaking I often felt she was much younger; however, her bravery and brash actions are certainly those of a teenager. I also would have loved to read more about Wavey and Mary, as I feel that they had deep personality struggles and changes that I think would have been intriguing to read about in more depth.

Addie is an though-provoking character because although she does not appear overly strong-willed or outgoing, she is in fact part of a nudist colony, something that, at the time, was extremely subversive and controversial within many societies and likely would have taken a certain amount of courage or care-free attitude to take part in. From the beginning, we can see that Addie is lost. Though she considers the nudist colony her home, she knows that she can't stay there forever and will eventually be pushed out, but she also has no idea where to go or who she belongs to. Her past haunts her and is the cause of inability to fulfill her desire for a stable, loving, family. 

Rumor, however, is strong-willed and rebellious from the start. She sneaks away to visit her Aunt Addie, sneaks off the Fair, and is generally more adventurous than her sister, Mary. She is still a shy and rather demure girl, but she is also willing to fight for what she wants and believes is right. 

This novel was entirely enjoyable and acted as a complete, satisfying story. However, there are a quite a few characters and events that I would have loved to have more information on. For instance, there are a few moments mentioned from Addie's past that make me wonder what more could have been explained, or certain gaps in time that I would have loved to hear more about. There were also some characters, such as a young boy named Daniel from Addie's childhood, that I would have loved to hear more about, for he was mentioned in an important way, but there was no elaboration. He may not have had a larger role than that in Addie's life, but I felt that there was more to say about him.

Overall, I am giving Whistling Women four stars, as I was truly entertained by the story and found myself enraptured in the characters and their complex lives.

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