When a book starts from a seemingly perfect place for the character, you know he is not going to stay there long… So when Jack Smith is looking at the face of Sandra, his mistress, thinking “I am the luckiest man alive,” his luck is at its end. Not only would Marie, his wife’s sister, find out about his affair, but he would to live long enough to try to handle the scandal with Pam, his meek, trusting wife.
While he is cheating on her, Pam waits excitedly for his return. “She had the week to prepare for his homecoming… she tried to make it an oasis for him.” Despite her trust in Jack, she knows intuitively that things between them are not quite right. “There was a tiny, itsy bit of doubt, a niggling worry, an insecurity in the back of her mind. He was disconnected from her.”
When she gets a call from the hospital that Jack has died from a heart attack, Pam goes to pieces and then, gradually, reassembles them, finding a new strength in herself. She now learns the truth about him and a few of the women with whom he betrayed her. Sandra, too, goes through grief: “Her life had changed overnight.”
This book is about looking forward to restart life already, even in the presence of death. It is about healing, part of which comes from forgiveness. I know this sounds strange to some readers, who find Pam’s behavior ‘too unreal.” Apparently it is easier and perhaps more natural for many of us to succumb to vengefulness. At the same time, this is exactly why this book is so fascinating. It offers a different possibility, a more hopeful one. “There was something about cleaning up, washing everything, that spoke of new beginnings.”
The author, Suzanne Jenkins, stated that she wrote the character as the opposite of herself. “I am at the opposite end of the spectrum of reactions….I wouldn’t be forgiving and embracing.” Yet I feel that by the end of the story Pam inhabits her to such a degree that her words come straight from the heart, gut, and mind.
Opening chapters say much about an author’s skill at raising the curtain on the proscenium arch of a story. Suzanne beings with a few words that establish the mood of the story well: ‘Dog days of late August, the perfect backdrop in which to hear a terminal diagnosis, Harley Jones thought as she walked to her car. The smell of tar and garbage mingled with the wind and the heat, like a big, stinking convection oven. It was the afternoon and the streets of Philadelphia were sweltering. That halting prelude proceeds to the story: ‘Two years after her husband, Jason makes a late night-discovery, Harley Jones finds out she’s dying, with the reality of leaving him and their four daughters behind. As obsession with what will become of her family overwhelms the little time she has left, and another woman sets her sights on Jason, Harley’s sister-in-law, Bea comes up with an idea that might solve Harley’s problems. PERFECT FOR HIM is a tale of two lovers whose lifetime romance sustains them, as an unwanted ending looms in the near future. Pathos and heartbreak intermingle with expectation and the comedy that only a close-knit family can generate. At the end, joy and hope reign, thanks to Harley’s unselfish love.’
Writing such as Suzanne offers is an oasis in the current deluge of paranormal/undead/horror stories – a book that provides not only a fine story well told, but also a sensitivity to human issues few authors can capture. This is a very fine read. Grady Harp, November 15
The Savant of Chelsea
“This gripping novel from Jenkins delivers complex twists and turns from start to finish. Alexandra Donicka is a talented but unstable brain surgeon living in New York City. When her mother dies, Alexandra travels to New Orleans to face the tragedies and secrets of her youth. These include childhood abuse and the birth of a child, who was taken from Alexandra by her mother more than two decades ago. As Alexandra searches for her daughter, she must grapple with long-hidden emotions and discover her own humanity. Jenkins creates fully realized, believable characters and ably portrays mental illness in this dark tale that provides nonstop thrills and culminates in an explosive and unexpected finale.”
The Greeks of Beaubien Street is a wonderful mystery story about a brutal murder, tempered by colorful family relationships. Jill Zannos is a homocide detective working the murder case. The victim is the daughter of a retired officer. Jill is an excellent detective, and is aided by her sixth sense, a type of intuition she has no control over, but has helped her in the past. Jill has a bad feeling about this case, and the end result is nothing I ever could have imagined.The mystery is tantalizing and kept me turning pages, but even more so I liked the interactions between Jill and her family. Jill is from Greektown in Detroit and has a deep Greek heritage that she sometimes tries to escape. The author does an excellent job in describing Greektown, so much so that you feel as if you’d recognize it walking the streets of Detroit. These were the best parts of the story for me, because I liked learning about the culture and traditions of the Greeks.
The story is really well done, though a bit graphic in nature. I’d just like to throw that out there for my YA readers. The plot moves along at a perfect pace. The characters, especially Jill are well developed and believable as real people. I loved the relationships between Jill and her family. They were very relatable. I really enjoyed this book and cannot wait to read the next book in the series.
A murder investigation unfolds inside Detroit’s tightknit Greek community.The brutal rape and murder of a young woman, Gretchen Parker, sparks the plot of this appealing mystery from Jenkins (Family Dynamics, 2012, etc.). Detroit’s police dispatch calls detective Jill Zannos, a longtime veteran with deep roots in Detroit’s “Greektown” enclave; she was raised there by her gruff father, Gus, after the death of her mother and the institutionalization of her mentally impaired brother. She joins her detective partner, Albert Wong, and begins the investigation into Parker’s disappearance and death, all the while juggling the demands of her outspoken, extended family and her hapless boyfriend Alex, (Gus, we’re told, is “resigned to the fact that his only daughter would probably never leave this sad and broken man”). Jill brings her dogged professionalism to the investigation, along with an acute instinct that she’s comfortable chalking up to a touch of extrasensory perception. “Being Greek,” Jenkins writes, “living above the family grocery store, having a mentally retarded brother, a dead mother, and a little ESP cemented Jill’s outcast standing in the community.” She’s a skilled detective, however, and as she tells her father, she’s “not just another pretty face.” After a series of well-deployed plot twists, Jill zeroes in on the culprit. Jenkins complicates and expands the domestic and detecting halves of the plot with a deft, sure touch, and her portrayal of Gretchen Parker’s final day is unflinchingly stark. Jenkins also expertly captures the exotic sights, sounds, and smells (oregano, mint, garlic, feta, olive oil, tomato, etc.) of the neighborhood.An effective, memorable police-procedural whodunit.
The Greeks of Beaubien Street boldly deconstructs the mythical Greek American family while simultaneously offering a portrait of a strong Greek American woman.” –
Don’t You Forget About Me – Suzanne Jenkins (2011)
After Pam’s husband Jack dies of a heart attack on the train, three women – Pam, her sister Marie and Sandra – are drawn together in a way they never thought would be possible. Both Sandra and Marie had been having a relationship with Jack and now Sandra is expecting his child. When Pam is hospitalised suddenly, yet another shock awaits the three women as Pam is diagnosed with a deadly medical condition which the other two soon find out they share. How many others out there are also affected? Pam also has to deal with both Jack’s and her mother’s and her brother-in-law Bill’s problems. This is a beautifully told story which had me gripped from the beginning. Although this book is the sequel to Pam of Babylon, it is written in such a way that if you haven’t read the prequel you will easily pick up, follow and enjoy Don’t You Forget About Me. (LM)
Marilynn rated it
This book is great. It’s great in the kept-me-up-until-2:00AM way. It’s great in the I-didn’t-want-to-read-too-fast-because-then-it’d-be-finished way. It’s great in the wow-I-sure-hope-this-is-going-to-be-a-series way.
The central character is Detective Jill Zannos of the Detroit Police Homicide Division. Jill is investigating the brutal rape and murder of a beautiful young suburbanite whose body was dumped in a downtown Detroit alley. The reader meets Jill’s family, boyfriend, and colleagues and gets a glimpse into the life of old Greektown, all the while the plot is moving toward a horrific conclusion. As the rapist and killer are revealed (SPOILER–no, they’re not the same person), most readers will be thinking, “Oh, please no, it just can’t be!”
Suzanne Jenkins’ style is to write from a compelling third person omniscient point of view which allows us to creep into the minds of all the characters. I’m just not sure we want to. But I am sure we’ll all want the next book.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
After a wealthy man of high reputation suffers a heart attack and dies, three women are left to grapple with the aftermath of his death and the twisted details of their past in this riveting fiction novel.
The story, a continuation of Jenkins’ Pam of Babylon (2011), sets out to explore the life and grief of the wife, the sister-in-law and the mistress of Jack, the deceased. From the beginning, the reader understands that all three women are aware of their positions in Jack’s life and to each other.
Pam Smith lives an apparently charmed life as a well-to-do Babylon, N.Y., homemaker in a large house by the water. In her 50s with her children grown, Pam is happy with her exemplary husband Jack. After he has a heart attack on the subway, however, the protagonist finds out more than she ever wanted to know about Jack.