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Review: Jo Joe by Sally Wiener Grotta

Jo Joe is a mystery of the heart about Judith Ormond, a young mixed race Jewish woman. Seventeen years earlier, violence and hatred drove Judith away from the small Pennsylvania village where she was raised by her white Christian grandparents. Only with the death of her beloved grandmother and the need to settle the family estate does she reluctantly break her vow to never return. During the one week visit, she’s forced to deal with her first love who cruelly broke her heart and is menaced by an old enemy who threatens new brutalities. But when she uncovers a long-hidden secret, Judith is forced to look anew at the bigotry and betrayal that scarred her childhood. 

If I tell you this book is just good or great, than I am doing you such a grave injustice. This is one of the books that I cannot express into words but trust me from the emotional imprint that I am drawing from that this is one of the most beautifully written, introspective and captivating stories that will not only grab your heart but it awaken your literary senses. 

So, what is it about the book that it is so wonderful? I can’t think of anything about that book that I didn’t like whether it was about the overall story, content, or structure. Not many authors can woo you with a seamless perfected story. I think she did such an amazing job with telling this story which is a real testament to her ability and quality to write. The story had such depth that every layer of the story seemed so fit so cohesively to where in the end it just leaves you feeling so good with the exception that you might need to reach for a couple of kleenex.

It was one of those stories that tug at your emotions not only because of the sensitivity of the story but also because of the connection that you feel towards the characters. You can’t help but to embrace them because they just jump off the page towards you. You go where they go, feel what they feel and the connection that is made makes you just want to keep reading.

Here is a little bit to get you started: 

Judith Ormond or as she will be referred to as “Jo” is someone that might come across at first a bit snobby or above the ordinary folk but as you read your heart will go out to her. Jo, the nickname given by her friend Joe Anderson who became one of the best parts of her life, broke her heart. A mysterious phone call brings her back to the place she made a promise never to return. The familial memories that she had would always be cherished but the emotional and physical abuse she endured there is something that as deeply buried she tried to put it resurfaced along with some unearthed secrets that will shatter her core, was the catalyst that inspired her coming to terms and new introspective journey. 

Joe Anderson is someone that you fall an in love with, not like for a while when secrets are revealed but ultimately completely feel sorry for him. In a time and the type of town that’s roots seem defined by racial lines of black and white decided to befriend Judith who he shared much more than a friendship. When Judith had no one, he was everything to her until one day changed forever and he broke her heart. He had some run ins with the law and headed on the wrong path was turned around by the one person whose guilt led to his redemption.

I hope you give the book a chance because there are so many things I think many can relate to such as the familial connection many have with our grandparents that remind us of our fondest memories or the feeling of wanting to belong when you are different. There are so many good things about this book involving the story that I know you will enjoy. You have all the goodies: love, family, friendship, loss, forgiveness and redemption. I will leave you with the hope that your experience with this book was a great for me as it will be for you. 

Reviewed by Michelle Bowles

Book Information
Publisher: Pixell Hall Press
Release Date: 5/6/2013
Pages: 312

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