In Seven Wings to Glory, Kathleen M. Rodgers continues the story of Johnny and her family which began in the acclaimed novel Johnny Come Lately. Johnny, a columnist in the local paper in the small Texas town of Portion, is the mother of three. Her youngest son, Cade, has shipped off to Afghanistan. Communication with him is spotty with long silences while Cade is on patrol or without internet service. Johnny has a loving husband, Dale, and a teenage daughter, Callie Ann, still at home. Her eldest son, D.J., is an artist living nearby as does her colorful and slightly chaotic mother, Victoria. Her best friend Whit, an African American woman, runs the local gift shop, "Whit's Whimsies." Johnny's life is full of loving and close relationships.
But there are others in town who are not so fortunate and who live lives of hate and fury. One day while Johnny is walking in a park with Whit, a young white supremacist throws a beer bottle at them and yells a racist slur. Shocked and outraged, Johnny writes a column about the incident setting off a surprising chain of events that reveal the ugly past in her sweet little town.
Seven Wings to Glory is full of elements that draw the reader in. Johnny's quest to find and confront the racist young man, to hear from her soldier son, and to reconcile with her mother who abandoned Johnny when she was little drives the plot. I enjoyed the way it captured me and made me want to keep turning pages.
Johnny is a likeable if slightly flawed character. There were times I thought she was a little na´ve, but that drove the story too as I wondered just what she was getting herself into. She seemed like someone I might meet in real life and want to be friends with. I enjoyed getting to know her and her chaotic mother, her brave soldier son and talented artist son, her spunky teenage daughter, her loving husband and her colorful friend. The relationship between Johnny and her mother is given particular emphasis. Victoria is unpredictable and sometimes suicidal and Johnny must mother her mother to keep her safe while at the same time trying to understand and forgive her.
Throughout the novel the reader witnesses Johnny's endeavors to understand and help people, to put wrong things right again. She uses her column to draw the issue of injustice and racism into sharper focus. The column provides insight into Johnny and her passion for justice. The reactions of the community to the things she writes drive the plot and give the reader something to think about too.
Though Rodgers book is not about the supernatural, there are supernatural elements that are intriguing, ghostly girls and voices that break into present reality and reveal something of the past.
In spite of its tough theme of racism, Seven Wings to Glory is a gentle story. Even the young white supremacist's backstory helps us understand and sympathize with him. It is a satisfying novel. Although this novel is a sequel to Johnny Come Lately, you don't have to have read the first book to be drawn in and enjoy the second. You will like the conscientious Johnny and her friends and family so much that when you close the book, you might even seek out the first novel in the series, just so you don't have to say goodbye.
Kathleen M. Rodgers stories and essays have appeared in Family Circle Magazine, Military Times and anthologies published by McGraw-Hill, University of Nebraska Press/Potomac Books, Health Communications, Inc., AMG Publishers, and Press 53. Seven Wings to Glory is her third novel. Visit her website.
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