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Reviewed by Cheryl E. Rodriguez for Readers' Favorite
Johnnie Come Lately by Kathleen M. Rodgers unveils the world of Johnnie Kitchen. Johnnie comes from a family that is good at keeping secrets. Her mom has been missing for years, and she doesn't know why? Maybe the statue at Soldier’s Park knows the answer. Or, the bird that calls her name? Always vigilant, Johnnie looks for her mother in every stranger that crosses her path. Moreover, why is her dead uncle’s room a shrine? And why won’t her Grandpa let someone repair the dock? Questions with no answers. As a wife and a mother, Johnnie struggles with her own secrets. She is suffocating in her shame. Ultimately, she spews, dropping an A-bomb on her family. “All the lies, all the secrets, churned in her gut: growing, intensifying, climbing up her insides trying to escape.” Trying to move on, Johnnie finds herself living in two different dimensions: then and now.
Kathleen M. Rodgers writes a poignant story in Johnnie Come Lately. Powerful! Beautiful! Heartrending! Through the lives of her characters, Rodgers reveals the joys and burdens of motherhood, the trauma of war, and the ongoing battle of an eating disorder. She depicts the life of her protagonist with sincere realism. The supporting cast of characters brings out the worst and the best of the main character. There were several aspects of the novel I enjoyed. Namely, the symbolism of the statue, the bird, the dock and the painting. Using journal entries was an illuminating technique; they gave insight and flow to the plot. Lastly, the way Rodgers spoke directly to the heart of the reader. Warriors fight, they become battle weary, they lay down their lives for others. Some of the greatest warriors are mothers, they battle worry, fear and regret. They sacrifice all they are for their loved ones. Johnnie Come Lately portrays one woman’s will to overcome life’s tribulations through the power of love and the security of hope.