Jacqueline Luckett's debut novel, Searching for Tina Turner, explores a woman's coming into her own and how she goes about making a change that empowers and validates her life. On the surface, Lena Spencer does not have it so bad; as a matter of fact many would say she has it damn good. She is married to a handsome, wealthy, high-powered executive, has a beautiful home in the Oakland hills of the San Francisco Bay Area, an active social life, two intelligent children, a fast red Mercedes sports car and all the clothes and jewelry she wants. They are walking in high cotton. In her 50s, she is now facing not only an empty nest but also feeling undervalued and underappreciated and a strong need to redefine herself. How can she get her husband, Randall, of 23 years, and her children to see she has goals and desires that have everything-- and nothing to do with them? Lena has put off her dream as a photographer in order to help Randall reach the successes he has obtained. Lena is unhappy and nobody around her seems to get it.
Randall and Lena's first date was a Tina Turner concert and a used copy of Tina's autobiography is about to become the catalyst for the change that is to come. She admires Tina's tenacity, strength of character and will to survive despite being an abused woman. Even though her life is different from Tina's she feels they are kindred spirits. Within a few weeks after a volatile dinner party at their home, Lena's life begins to unravel and she finds herself on the verge of divorce. Dealing with her angry children, ages 20 and 17, a mother who thinks she is making a mistake, and a new life-style, Lena is free to pursue her career and finds a job in an art gallery. With encouragement from her best friend, Cheryl, she heads to France, tickets in hand for a Tina Turner concert in Nice. This is where the story becomes alive; amongst the cobblestone streets, fabulous restaurants, and beautiful architecture, Lena feels her world is finally opening up. A chance encounter with an ex-boyfriend adds even more steam to the equation.
Reading the first three-quarters of the book was like déjà vu. I had read this story before; the premise of middle-aged wife who has everything and chucks it all to find herself and her purpose was a running theme in the 1990s. But in France the story takes on a life of its own. The scenery, the food, and the sights, were vividly detailed. You could taste the white Bordeaux; savor the flaky croissants and fresh-caught sea bass. I could see the scenery captured by Lena's camera lens on walking tours in both Nice and Paris; I felt as if I was there. One could feel Lena come alive and embrace all that was coming to her and you knew she was going to be all right and what had felt like an obsession with Tina Turner becomes symbolism for "a natural woman." With her talented pen, Luckett does a credible job of giving readers a flavor of Oakland and the surrounding Bay Area community. I look forward to her next offering. Final rating 3.5
The advanced reading copy of this book was provided by the author for review purposes.
Dera R. Williams APOOO BookClub
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Dera R Jones Williams (dwillwrite)
Dera is a writer, editor, genealogist, writing mentor, researcher, and family historian, and she is active in local literary and national literary circles. She is the keeper of family stories, archivist … more
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Lena’s husband, Randall, has been climbing the corporate ladder for years, and Lena has supported him every step of the way, glad to help him and raise their two children. But now she feels as though she has lost herself in the process, and is drowning in luxury. With his goal of becoming the first black CEO of his company in reach, Randall refuses to go to therapy; and with the same determination that has led to his success, he tells Lena to accept the status quo or get a divorce. At 52, Lena well knows how divorce changes everything as friends, and even children, choose sides. Seeking guidance and support, Lena discovers the wisdom of singer and survivor Tina Turner, using Turner’s story as a road map to finding her own happiness and a way back to her dreams. In her debut novel Luckett delivers a strong, likable heroine who comes through her crisis by recognizing her true worth and empowering herself. Luckett’s triumphant tale will rally readers of all backgrounds. --Patty Engelmann