Book Review: “Ramona Blue” by Julie Murphy

Ramona is pretty confident of what her life will be after growing up in the small coastal town of Eulogy, Mississippi.  She’s too tall for her family’s falling apart trailer, she’s gay in a small southern town, and she knows that she’ll have to be the one to take care of her older sister and the baby that’s coming since the dad is useless.  But then her summer romance with Grace falls apart and Freddie, a boy from her childhood, moves into town and starts opening her eyes to other possibilities.  What if everything that Ramona felt was just the ways things are didn’t have to be?  What if there could be more?

There are so many reasons to like this book – most of all Ramona and Freddie.  I loved the way they could just be with each other.  They have a wonderful relationship that I didn’t read as “boy saving her from her gay phase” but more of “love is love is love” and everything is fluid.  Ramona never stops being attracted to girls, but she can’t deny feeling for this particular boy either, and that right there folks is how complex life and love can be.  Maybe it isn’t for everyone – after all, Ramona’s friends Saul and Ruth never question their sexuality… and neither does her sister Hattie.  But for Ramona it is that complicated and that is okay.  If she ever wants to label herself, she can and she’ll figure out what that label will be.

Moving on, I also appreciate the setting.  The Gulf Coast post-Katrina is something that I don’t know much about.  That was such a devastating storm, unlike anything we ever see up here in the northeast, and the effects linger.  I’m thankful that the author is reminding us of that, because after the storms of this summer – especially in the Caribbean – we need to do a better job of remembering and doing whatever we can to help.

This is a book that I read slowly.  After my first GoodReads update went to twitter, my friend immediately responded with “My favorite book of the year”, and I could already see why.  So I forced myself to take my time.  Thanksgiving week helped with that a bit, but I know that I tend to race through books that I’m enjoying, and I really wanted to spend as much time with these characters as I could.  I’m a little sad that it’s over, quite frankly, but I’m imagining all sorts of great futures for them now!

*****

Ramona Blue

by Julie Murphy

Balzer+Bray, 2017

408 pages

Source:  Purchased

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