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Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Readers' Favorite
Just One Look by Joanne Kukanza Easley is a powerful work of literary fiction about grief and what comes after. This moving and multi-layered story centers on Danielle Marek, who is thirteen and in love. It's Chicago, 1965, and for her, it's true love, not puppy love. Vietnam crushes her dreams of a life with John, and she spirals down a path of self-destruction with men, but her way leads to a terrible end. She finds herself a young but rich widow raising a baby on her own. Is she able to rise above her loss and find herself again?
If Easley had only penned the simple summary above, Just One Look would already make a great novel, but there is so much more to the story. Part of the appeal is the timeframe in which it takes place: the tumultuous sixties and seventies. The themes covered are young love, loss, facing the truth, and learning to live again. This novel is for mature readers, as you'll find profanity and sexual situations. And even though this woman's story will appeal to a female audience first, men may find it intriguing as well. Dani's ups and downs feel real, and she is a relatable character. The plot is intense and dramatic but so fitting for those decades. Chicago comes to life on the pages, as does the character's odyssey.
This author's style is engaging, emotional, and personal, bringing you inside the heart and minds of the characters, especially Dani. The images Easley paints are full of life, the pacing is spot-on, and the overall feel of the novel transports you into the character's mindset and a particular place and time. I especially enjoyed the crackling dialogue and specific descriptions of the pop references, but my favorite part had to be when Dani and John first met. It brought back a rush of feelings for the headiness of young love. If you've ever lost the love of your life, you will be moved reading Just One Look by Joanne Kukanza Easley and will become an instant fan of this author's writing.