Wednesday, May 3, 2017

'Round Midnight by Laura McBride

‘Round Midnight is Laura McBride’s second novel following the wonder We Are Called to Rise. In the 1950s, June leaves her boring New Jersey marriage and Jewish community and moves to Las Vegas where she marries Del, the owner of El Capitan, a small casino. When June hires rising African-American singer Eddie Knox, his unique voice brings the customers into the casino’s Midnight Room and the place rocks. June’s attraction to Eddie soon upends their lives. 
The novel shifts to 1990s Chicago where Jimbo buys Honorata, a mail-order Filipino bride, from her uncle without her knowledge. Honorata’s life changes when she hits a jackpot at El Capitan and meets June. Coral is a music teacher whose father was Del’s best friend and she’s searching for her identity after learning that she was adopted. Her mother tells Coral “Life is long. There’s a lot of ways for a secret to come out.”  McBride reveals those secrets as Coral’s story develops. Later, Coral and Honorata buy homes on the same street and meet through their children. In 2010 Honorata’s priest asks her to hire Engracia, a Mexican immigrant, to clean her home. Engracia had worked as a housekeeper at El Capitan and she ties the women and their stories together and brings the book to its breathtaking climax. 

McBride tells the women’s stories in a third person narrative that allows the city of Las Vegas and its growth and changes to mirror the lives of the protagonists. The book is primarily about the four women and their relationships with their children and the men who populate their lives. The men are catalysts for the women’s actions, but this is primarily a book about the four women and the sacrifices and decisions they make for love. 

Engracia is the least examined of the women, yet it’s her grief, her faith, and her kindness that tie the tale together. That McBride can write so little about Engracia and still make the reader yearn to step into the book to help her is a tribute to the power of McBride’s writing. 

‘Round Midnight is like a story told around a campfire. The introduction of each character at just the right time is a testament to the brilliant pacing of this novel. At the transitions in the women’s stories, the chapter endings lead the reader directly to the next woman. McBride allows the stories to unfold with a natural rhythm at a speed that builds as the stories reach their climax. She then slows the pace to a crawl inside the closed room where the past seems destined to ruin lives. When a page-turner forces a reader to hold a deep breath to await the climax, that’s a master class in pacing.

Watch Laura McBride in this book trailer to learn more about the book and the power of love, courage, and grace. 

Summing it Up: ‘Round Midnight is a fine novel with a spectacular climax and ending. Its focus on four women of different ages, ethnic backgrounds, and socio-economic statuses showcases the myriad ways love grows. The questions it raises would make it an excellent book club choice.

Note: ‘Round Midnight simply begs to be a Mother’s Day gift.

Rating: 5 stars   
Category: Fiction, Five Stars, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Book Club
Publication date: May 2, 2017
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