Written by: David M Barnett @davidmbarnett
Published by: Trapeze Books @TrapezeBooks
“Nineteen-year-old Jennifer is regretting her hasty move into Sunset Promenade, an unusual retirement home taking in students to save money. Despite their differences in age, Jennifer and the older residents thrive and embark on a series of new adventures. But when Sunset Promenade is threatened with closure, cracks begin to show, and this quirky group of friends must work together to save their home.
The Growing Pains of Jennifer Ebert, aged 19 going on 91 is a funny, warm and uplifting novel about the importance of friendship, the value of community, and how it’s never too late to have the time of your life…”
The world seems like a horrible place right now.
It does though.
Every time I open my twitter stream – that I curate with every attempt to muffle this fact, I’m still assaulted by tales of politicians both home and abroad doing the most monstrous things. Snippets of humans being evil to each other. Clips of humans being evil to animals. The world seems a darker and more cruel place than in any of my previous 40 years on this earth.
So, when a book comes that makes me forget for a while that the world seems to be circling the toilet drain more and more rapidly, when an author comes along that can fill my wizened blackened heart with joy… it really is a thing of beauty to be cherished.
“The Growing Pains of Jennifer Ebert, Aged 19 Going on 91” brought me a little light every day when I was reading it and listening to it on my lunchtime walks from work. I looked forward to getting back into the world of Sunset Promenade. I cared about its characters fiercely.
Barnett has a real talent for propelling a story that seems at the time like it isn’t really going anywhere. However before you know it there’s a mystery afoot, there’s a love story happening, there are multiple tales of personal redemption taking place and BOOM there are plot lines weaving in and out and you don’t even fully know where they’ve appeared from. Barnett’s real skill is making the simple, everyday, exciting.
This book could so easily have sailed into the dangerous waters of stereotypes. A Liverpudlian obsessed with the Beatles, an old racist retired soldier, hard working Eastern European but just when you think you know where these characters are headed Barnett with a real depth of skill turns the rudder at the last second and avoids the rocks of these tropes and gives you deeper more gratifying characters as a result.
I didn’t instantly fall in love with Jenny Ebert, I don’t think I was supposed to. She goes on a real journey throughout this book from someone you could easily actively dislike to someone you are really rooting for and want to succeed. That’s true of a lot of the residents of Sunset Promenade and it’s a better book for it.
It’s laugh out loud funny in places, but I also audibly gasped out loud and clutched my hands to my chest like a startled spinster when a doosie of a plot twist I didn’t see coming was finally revealed. There’s also a scene featuring a Ferris wheel which is one of the tensest, most exciting action sequences I’ve ever read.
I have to give a special mention to the audio version of the book. Narrated by David Thorpe whose performance is absolutely outstanding. I genuinely forgot I wasn’t listening to a full cast audio drama because of the different personalities he brought to each of the characters with his reading. If you buy the book in kindle format don’t miss adding the audio narration to it.
David M Barnett manages to encapsulate an intense mystery story in a tale that reminded me that the world isn’t all bad. It’s memorable, heartwarming characters teach us that you are never too old to make a new start and that it’s more important to be comfortable in your own skin than to be popular.
*Note the name of the book was changed from “The Lonely Hearts Cinema Club” after publication.