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March 7, 2019

A Review of Two Books by Mandy Mikulencak

by Susan Roberts

Even though I have stacks of books to read, I still enter every contest for free books on Facebook.  I 'm not very lucky but every once in a while I win a book.  I was lucky enough to win two books by Mandy in a giveaway on a book site called 'A Novel Bee'.  This author was new to me but after reading her books, she's been added to my list of favorite authors.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for an honest review.

The Last Suppers

The Last Suppers
December 2017; A John Scognamiglio Book
978-1496710031; audio, ebook, print (304 pages)
literary fiction
'It was 1959 and she's been the lead cook at Greenmount Penitentiary for eight years - the first women to be allowed on staff.  The last warden didn't care if meals were punishment in and of themselves.  Said only filth was good enough for filth.  She felt her hiring had less to do with her culinary skills and more to do with the Department of Corrections wanting bad press to go away.'

This is a thought-provoking novel that addresses controversial issues of the 50s many of which still exist today. The main character is so well written that the reader is able to feel her pain and confusion as she navigates her life the best she knows how.

Ginny Polk is in charge of the kitchen at a prison in Louisiana in the early 50s. It's a rough place to work but she grew up there because her late father was a guard and they had housing provided. Ginny is a very compassionate woman and one of her personal goals is to fix the last meal of the prisoners who are being put to death. She talks to them or their family before the last meal to find out what they really want for this final meal. The executions all take a large toll on Ginny because her mother made her witness the execution of the man who killed her father when she was only 8. Her early life could have made Ginny into a hard person but instead she is strong and independent much to the dismay of the prison board who doesn't like the special dinners that she makes for the condemned men.

Truth, justice, mercy—none of these are as simple as Ginny once believed. And the most shocking crimes may not be the ones committed out of anger or greed, but the sacrifices we make for love.

This is a wonderful book about tough subjects but it is well balanced by Ginny and her attitudes toward the prisoners. She is very well written and a character that I won't soon forget.

Buy The Last Suppers at Amazon

Forgiveness Road

Forgiveness Road
February 2019; A John Scognamiglio Book
978-1496710062; audio, ebook, print (304 pages)
literary fiction
'I was born in the spring of 1960 and for several years held the record as the longest baby every delivered at Biloxi Hospital.  When I was young, I didn't have a clear idea of who or what I'd be;  just that I'd be in Mississippi.  Probably in Biloxi.  Near my mama.  Near my baby sisters.  Like none of us would ever age, or go to college, or get married and moved away.

It wasn't until I was sixteen that I learned how far an open road and a grandmother's love would take me.'  (Prologue)

This novel is about three generations of women in the same family who have their lives spiral out of control one hot day in July. This event changes all of their futures and what they believe about their pasts.

On a hot, humid July morning, sixteen-year-old Cissy Pickering calmly and deliberately shoots her father in the back. In her mind it was completely justified - she was trying to save her younger sisters from the sexual abuse that her father had inflicted on her for her entire life. Her mother, Caroline, knew nothing about the abuse and isn't sure that she believes it and blames Cissy for ruining her life and her standing in the community. Her maternal grandmother, Janelle, who had always been very proper and very standoffish to her daughter's family is the only person who is on Cissy's side. She convinces the courts that Cissy should go to a mental hospital instead of jail. Cissy is already extremely OCD and when more revelations come to light, she retreats even further from reality. Janelle decides to take things into her own hands and despite her failing health, she fights for Cissy. And over the course of an unlikely road trip, Janelle and Cissy will confront the truths they've hidden from the world and themselves, finding courage, deep-rooted resilience, and a bond tender and tough enough to transform them both.

The wonderfully written novel shows love and resilience in three women in different generations of the same family. They all grow because of what happened, but to me, the best relationship that came about was between Cissy and her grandmother, Janelle. You may shed a few tears as you read this fantastic novel but they are worth it for the chance to read about these wonderful characters.

Buy Forgiveness Road at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling. She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends. She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with Susan on FacebookGoodreads, or Twitter.

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