4 out of 4 stars
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Backcomb & Tattoo by Shea R Embry is a book about friendship and secrets. The novel follows an elderly woman known as Aunt Mary Opal and her young friends - Rachael, Jesi and Nicole. Aunt Mary Opal is suffering from a terminal illness. However, she is unwilling to reveal it to anyone. She just wants her last days to be filled with young people and their joy. Therefore, she recruits three young women into a friendship club where they drink and create memories. Over the course of the novel, they have many misadventures and funny moments.
The story takes place over a period of one year. The lives of everyone transform tremendously during that time. Aunt Mary Opal is a mysterious and remarkable character. She harbours many secrets in her life and urges her new friends to keep certain things hidden as well. As the story progresses, we observe these friends weaving an intricate web with more and more secrets to cover up the initial ones.
This is a transformational story, and the characters develop through their association with each other. Nicole is a victim of emotional abuse who learns to take care of herself. Jesi avoids commitments initially but learns to trust others. Rachael repeatedly puts others’ needs before hers and she learns to stand up for her wishes. Aunt Mary Opal wanted her young friends to give her support and love. However, she affects the lives of everyone around her with positivity and warmth. The novel deals with weighty issues like assisted suicide and domestic violence.
The book is unique in many ways. Most of the characters are female, and the book passes the Bechdel test. The female characters primarily talk about each other and very less about the men in their life. Moreover, the story delivers many lighter moments, which are exaggerated by the author with comic effect. All the women in the story react in dramatic ways to sadness, happiness and laughter. They have tears in their eyes as soon as they get emotional. They dance when they laugh. They throw pillows and hug each other very often. Even though these felt a little strange to me initially, I got used to it as I bonded with the characters. As I reached the end of the book, their quirks seemed natural.
I could find only two grammatical mistakes in the entire book. I give Backcomb & Tattoo by Shea R Embry 4 out of 4 stars for the excellent editing, dialogues and character development. This is a page-turner and one craves the company of these women even after completing the book. Despite all the secrets they conceal, their love unites them throughout. There are some lesbian romantic moments. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys light-hearted novels with predominantly female characters. I would not recommend this to anyone who expects deep philosophical ponderings or heterosexual romance. Nevertheless, I would invite everyone to give this book a chance because as Aunt Mary Opal says, “Have fun, it's the best thing to have.”
Backcomb & Tattoo
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