4 out of 4 stars
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Ruby Adams was a vaudeville actress who worked with the Will King Follies in 1925. She was in the stage wings, waiting for her act to start when tragedy strikes. A rope holding a three-hundred pound sandbag snapped and landed on Ruby before her performance, breaking her back and ending her career as an actress. Her fiance, John Davis, hires attorney Charles Brennan to sue the New York & San Francisco Amusement Company for compensation for Ruby’s injuries.
Geene Rees’s Waiting in the Wings is about her great aunt. In the introduction, she explains that she had found photographs and newspaper clippings about the vaudeville shows among her grandmother’s things. Through these, she pieced together Ruby’s life. As history forgot the once famous actress, Rees knew she had to tell Ruby’s story before it was lost forever. Even though the court case documents were lost, Rees wrote this historical fiction about her great aunt using the memories from her grandmother, photographs, newspaper clippings, and a tax-evasion case from 1940.
Although Rees took a few creative liberties in Waiting in the Wings, there was a lot of research put into the story. One such creative liberty Rees took was when she had Ruby and John visit Aqua Caliente Racetrack in 1926, but the racetrack wasn’t completed until 1928. The people and sites mentioned in the book were real people and places. Anyone who has lived around the San Francisco area may enjoy picturing these sites while reading the novel. As someone not from the area and not knowing much about San Francisco in the 1920s, the reading piqued an interest to search for things online to get a better picture of the scenes and people. Included in the book are a few photographs, however, no names or dates appeared with them. The novel featured slang from the 1920s, but readers who don't know these terms might struggle to understand them. For example, “crumb bum” is a wealthy and powerful person or “ham-and-eggers” is a speakeasy.
The characters are well developed and the reader roots for Ruby and hopes Brennan will win the case against the theater owners. Rees uses the third person perspective and allows the reader to see all points of view, including the theater owners, Morris Markowitz and Moses Lesser. While chapters and section breaks divide the different points of views, chapter three was difficult to read, with four points of view to keep up with and no section breaks. I reread the chapter to understand everything and everyone. The rest of the book was smoother to read.
I thought Waiting in the Wings was a delightful, quick read for a historical fiction. I enjoyed reading each of the characters’ perspectives. I give Waiting in the Wings 4 out of 4 stars. Though I had difficulty with chapter three, it did not detract from the rest of the book. I enjoyed being transported to San Francisco in the 1920s and following the case of Ruby Adams vs. New York & San Francisco Amusement Company. I found no errors, grammatical or otherwise. Rees was passionate about getting her great aunt’s story out to the world and I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a short historical fiction.
Waiting in the wings
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