(I received a free copy of Spare Change to write an honest review on The Silver Petticoat Review. I was not financially compensated for this post and all opinions are my own.)
Winner of five literary awards and an Amazon #1 Bestseller, Bette Lee Crosby’s Spare Change is worthy of notice. Not just because it’s been successful, but because it really is that good.
Historical literary fiction with a touch of southern charm, this heartwarming story will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve put it down.
Historical literary fiction with a touch of southern charm, this heartwarming story will leave you thinking about it long after you’ve put it down. Amidst the darkness and tragedy presented, it’s surprising you leave the novel feeling hopeful and uplifted.
Spare Change tells the dual story of Olivia Ann Westerly and young Ethan Allen Doyle. Olivia, an independent woman in her 50s, refused to conform to society, remaining unmarried and single (much to the horror of her father who disowned her at 25). She wanted to have a career rather than be a wife and mother. On top of that, she’s so superstitious that at times it controls her life, right down to her compulsive fear of the number eleven.
Everything changes when at 58 in the 1950s she meets Charlie Doyle and falls madly in love. Throwing caution to the wind and all of her marriage phobias behind, she quickly agrees to marry him. But then Charlie dies on her honeymoon leaving her alone and heartbroken.
Ethan Allen, on the other hand, is an eleven-year-old boy who’s never had it easy. After he witnesses a horrific murder, he goes on the run to find his grandfather (who turns out to be Charlie Doyle) with the promise of danger following close behind.
Instead of Charlie, he finds Olivia who agrees to take him in. The rest of the story leans on the ever-growing relationship between this troubled eleven-year-old boy and Olivia, the woman who never wanted kids and who continues to fear the number eleven (which happens to be his age much to her horror). Together they must learn to trust each other as danger lurks in the distance, continually closing in on them. Can they overcome their tragic odds?
I genuinely enjoyed this story from start to finish. As tragic as this story is at times, it is very entertaining to read and hard to put down. You want to know what happens next and you can’t help but be drawn into the lives of the characters, especially Olivia and Ethan Allen.
In the beginning, I was thrown a little by the narrative style and it took me a few chapters to adjust. But once I did, I was intrigued by Crosby’s unique approach. Spare Change switches narrative voice frequently, bringing you inside the minds of even the most detestable characters. Without judgment and with true empathy, Crosby presents the characters as layered human beings with flaws (some of which are so horrifying you almost don’t want to understand the way they think).
There are vulgarities in this story so as to remain true to who each of these people are. In some books, writers fail to distinguish one voice from the next and sometimes too many of the characters wind up sounding the same. That is not the case in Spare Change. No doubt Crosby’s greatest strength as a writer is her ability to create rich, memorable characters with distinct voices. Even the minor characters feel authentic. By the end, I felt like I knew these people and wished I could meet some of them in real life.
Overall, I thought this was a fantastic read and would recommend it without hesitation. Bette Lee Crosby has beautiful control over language masterfully spinning words together that transport you into the 1950s South like a time machine. There’s heart, humor, tragedy, and suspense and it’s not a story I’ll soon forget.
Spare Change should be a movie on the big screen. With a strong narrative, distinct characters, murder, and suspense this would be a fantastic PG-13 film. A TV movie could work if done well. But if not, then it could come across as a cheesy, cliché Lifetime TV Movie, and that would not do this story any justice.
Back in the ’90s, this would have been the perfect vehicle for a Susan Sarandon and Elijah Wood onscreen duo; the older, independent woman with heart (and a touch of quirkiness) and the blue-eyed street talking kid. Imagine The Client meets The War with a touch of To Kill a Mockingbird on the side. The book already plays like a movie and it would easily adapt. If the right actors were cast (they would need to find a young Elijah Wood – the kid needs to be that good; Ty Simpkins comes to mind) this would be a memorable movie and I would quickly fork out full price to pay to see it in the theater on opening night.
Content Note: There is some strong language and violent situations.
“You had me at hello.”
Page Count: 280 pages
Genre: Literary, Historical
Publisher: Bent Pine Publishing; First Edition edition (October 3, 2011)
Review Posted Online August 26, 2013
Buy at :
Author Website: http://betteleecrosby.com
Check out our other Literature Reviews.