Thursday, May 25, 2017

G871 Book Review of Long Black Veil by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Name of Book: Long Black Veil

Author: Jennifer Finney Boylan

ISBN: 978-0-451-49632-4

Publisher: Crown

Type of book: Transgender characters, pretentious, Maine, Pennsylvania, religion, forgiveness, 1980, staying the same, never growing, reunion, death, secrets, friendship

Year it was published: 2017


From the New York Times bestselling author of She’s Not There, a new novel about a woman whose family and identity are threatened by the secrets of her past.

Long Black Veil is the story of Judith Carrigan, whose past is dredged up when the body of her college friend Wailer is discovered 20 years after her disappearance in Philadelphia’s notorious and abandoned Eastern State Penitentiary. Judith is the only witness who can testify to the innocence of her friend Casey, who had married Wailer only days before her death.

The only problem is that on that fateful night at the prison, Judith was a very different person from the woman she is today. In order to defend her old friend and uncover the truth of Wailer’s death, Judith must confront long-held and hard-won secrets that could cause her to lose the idyllic life she’s built for herself and her family.


Ooh boy, where do I start with the characters? Pretty much all of them seemed like pretentious snobs to me, as well as selfish and broken. Judith carries a dark secret that she fears revealing to people she knows. She strikes me as selfish, cruel and thoughtless, especially how the secret affects those closest to her. Quentin, as frequently pointed out, is not himself at all and the biggest giveaway is that he refuses to have sex with another character and often loves imitating famous characters. Other characters, unfortunately are only given very thin veneer from which we can try to understand them: Rachel is a former painter but is now an art professor who couldn't get over Quentin nor Backflip Bob (Seriously?) Maisie is a wealthy woman who tutors special needs kids in piano and who regrets her history, Casey is a 300 lb man who seems to desire to give other people heart attack through cooking, then there is Tripper a wealthy lawyer, Ben, an autistic teenager who is painted as creepy, and Judith's family of her firefighter husband as well as her adopted son Falcon.


I read the book from cover to cover and have no idea what lesson I should have learned; to be compassionate to others? Don't question their pasts?


The story is told in third person as well as first person point of view. I understand that when it comes to first person point of view the author wants the reader to be close and to understand Judith, but it's done extremely awkwardly. What are supposed to be secrets that Judith keeps lose momentum and are disappointing to say the least, especially the fact that she doesn't seem to have sympathy towards anyone but herself. The last half of the book completely fell apart for me and the writing began sounding very amateurish in my point of view. (It's really not a good sign when I'm beginning to think of how I can improve the writing as well as the story.) Once in a while the book does have great quote and messages, but they are lost in the clunky plot and writing.

Author Information:
(From the book)

Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan, author of fourteen books, is the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer-in-Residence at Barnard College of COlumbia University. She also serves as the national cochair of the board of directors GLAAD. She ahs been a contributing writer for the Op-Ed page of hte New York Times since 2013. Jenny also served on the board of trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction and is a special advisor to the president of Colby College in Maine.

She lives in New York City and in Belgrade Lakes, Maine, with her wife Deedie, and their two sons, Zach and Sean.


From the description of the book, I expected it to be a well-written psychological thriller that examines the secrets the characters keep from one another, but instead I had no idea what in nine hells I've read. When I learned what the twist was, I thought, interesting, I hadn't read books about transgender characters before (closest was Nadia Hashimi's The Pearl that broke its shell as well as the Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin, both 5 star reads on my blog.) When I noticed that the praise was coming from Jodi Picoult, I should have listened to my intuition closely; Jodi Picoult's and mine tastes don't match. Anything she praises, I am destined to dislike. I began to read the book; at first I found the story to be well put and captivating, especially when the author attempts to build community that Judith integrates herself. When I learned about the twist, I had hoped to learn more about transgender characters and their thought processes; what is it like? how is it being different than just being unhappy with your body? I think I hoped and expected way too much from the book, and the author failed to deliver on my expectations. From about the middle towards the end, the story became incredibly awkward and clunky as well as cringe-worthy. Seriously, the characters are in their 50s but they didn't move on with their lives? They just stayed frozen from 1980s up until modern times? The climax of the book is cut away unfortunately and it's tied up way too neatly. All in all, a disappointing read.

This is for Blogging for Books

1 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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