A Good Girl
by Johnnie Bernhard

Texas Review Press, Huntsville, Texas, 2017. ISBN 978-1-680-03121-8.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 11/30/2017

Fiction: Mainstream

The overheated, overstretched woman concentrates on navigating the breakneck traffic on I-10 the super-busy, super-speedy highway carrying her from her own domestic chaos in Mississippi to the bedside of her dying father in Victoria, Texas. But Gracey Reiter has more than traffic on her mind. She's anticipating what's to come, all the while wondering 'why me?' She knows the answer to that question. It's always Gracey—the middle child, "the one who can be counted on."

Once arrived in Victoria, she immerses herself in the care of her dying dad, dealing with her absent and reluctant siblings and worried and worrisome husband. As she searches her father's house looking for his burial policy, she finds the family Bible. Each name brings memories and stories. Family stories of the American dream—when things don't work out, move on. Do your best and hope for even better for those who follow.

When I first confronted the shifting stories that Bernhard inserts between the continuing Gracey saga, I felt lost and confused, but the feeling didn't linger. I quickly caught the rhythm and began to wonder where Gracey's erratic memory would take me next. Not surprisingly, it occasionally led me to memories of my own.

A Good Girl, both the book and the heroine, will be familiar and fascinating to many readers. While the story focuses on a Texas family, this book will appeal to any reader who has a family full of stories and a head and a heart full of memories.

Not unlike her protagonist Gracey, author Johnnie Bernhard must be well acquainted with long stretches of I-10 and the excitement of Houston interchanges, for they both live in Mississippi and have family roots in Houston and points west. Bernhard, a journalist, columnist, and nonfiction writer adds novelist to the list with this first novel. She also owns Bernhard Editorial Services. Keep up with her on her website.

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