Book Review: Finding Bluefield by Elan Barnehama
It’s the 1960s, and Barbara thinks she has enough on her hands handling medical residency as a woman. She doesn’t need the complications of dating women on top of that…or the risk to her profession of rumors that she’s a lesbian. But when she meets local cook, Nicky, all these cautions go out the window. Soon they’re a couple, and Nicky is determined to have a baby for them to raise together.
I read this book because my previous read from this indie publisher (Bold Strokes Books) was such a unique, well-written piece of GLBTQ lit, and I was excited to get more. Unfortunately, the quality of this book does not come close to that of Lemon Reef. Admittedly, Lemon Reef is by an entirely different author, but one does expect similar quality levels from the same publisher. That was, unfortunately, not the case this time.
The plot is moderately common in lesbian fiction. Girl meets girl. Couple wants a baby. Girl gets pregnant. Can they raise the baby and keep the relationship going. With the added backdrop of prejudice and changing rights from the 1960s through the 1980s, it had the potential to be more unique and add an interesting twist, particularly since Nicky is supposed to be involved in the Civil Rights movement. Unfortunately, none of this really pans out. There are tantalizing teases of something more or something unique such as when Nicky gives a ride to a black man trying to escape from mob “justice” in the small town or when Barbara cheats on Nicky in New York City, but none of these ideas are brought to fruition. In fact, the whole book feels more like a moderately fleshed-out plot outline for a future book. Like, here are the key points, and I’ll flesh them out later. Only this is the finished book. There will be no more fleshing out of the plot. It’s frustrating to read because just when you think something is about to happen, the idea gets dropped and you skip ahead a few years.
Similarly, the characters are never fully realized. They are extremely two-dimensional, even the two main characters. I actually found myself mixing Barbara and Nicky up repeatedly, which is intensely problematic. They are two separate people, and their relationship is the focus of the novel, yet even after the entire book they are mostly unclear to me, except that Nicky has green eyes. They simply don’t feel like real people to the reader at all, which is a problem in general but even more so when the book is trying to both be character-driven and address rights issues.
A book needs at least a compelling plot or engaging characters to be readable and both to be great. This book has neither. I can see potential in the plot and sentence structures for good writing, but the author needs to work on both expanding into greater plot detail as well as on improving characterization.
2 out of 5 stars