This is a review I just posted-enjoy!
Good People by EJ Runyon
Author EJ Runyon has written a mesmerizing tale about the healing of Bernie, once known as Bernadette Maldenado, then as Mrs. Carlos Obregon. Now, because she has separated from her husband on a trial basis, she is just Bernie. Names seem to be an important way of progressing this story as Bernie eventually becomes The Little Baker. But I get ahead of myself.
Bernadette enters the three-month separation detached from everything, her marriage, her family, her life and mostly herself. She’s an abused woman, beaten to the point of brokenness by the man who claims to love her. Hence this summer separation suggested by their court-ordered counselor.
This time apart is portrayed in a lovely literary tour de force as Bernie reawakens to life, a journey crafted skillfully by Runyon. She is a master of phrases. For example:
When they pounded her with their frowns and stares and demanded, “Who are you trying to be, Chica?”
Home alone, sleeping is what she concentrated on. Her sheets on the single bed took on the scent of ripened fruit, sweet.
And I especially like this one:
And she did the softest thing I’ve ever seen; through the crack, instead of opening it any wider, she reached out her fingertips, two slim fingers in a cupped curve, reaching like a kitten’s paw slipped under a closed door, a search for something she might know was there but couldn’t see. She waved them. “’kay.” The door closed. She was gone
Runyon has also peopled Bernie’s new life with catalytic characters that struggle with their own issues as they charm Bernie by turns. Meg, a tormented M2F transgendered neighbor, is the first to befriend Bernie. Then there are the others who are overcoming problems of their own, Baby and Rae and Fred and Judd…the list goes on. Where will Bernie fit into this morass of new acquaintances? Will they intimidate her further or empower her to be the strong, vibrant woman she once was? Only time will tell but will it require more time than one enchanted summer? Or will Bernie, with autumn, again become the Bernadette-of the too-long words and bookish ways-who painfully belongs to her husband and his expectant family?
This novel is an expansion of a short story in Runyon’s excellent collection Claiming One. I won that collection in a contest and as soon as I cracked it open, I realized how truly lucky that happenstance was. And of all the stories in Claiming One, this was a perfect choice for expansion and exploring to such depth.