Vera Jane Cook, Author of Dancing Backward in Paradise: Book Review Tour
Winner: Eric Hoffer Award for publishing excellence and the Indie Excellence Award for notable new fiction! 5 Star Clarion ForeWord Review!
Publisher: Musa (November 16, 2012)
Category: Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction/ Southern Fiction
Tour Date: April/May, 2014 Available in: Print & ebook, 347 Pages
Life for Grace Place is all about sucking on “meat jerkys” and Lenny Bean, her handsome lover. Grace’s mother has loftier plans for her daughter. She insists that Grace save her money and move to New York City so she can find fame and fortune as an actress.
Grace works as a cleaning lady for wealthy Betty Ann Houseman so she can pool her pennies for the trip north. Betty Ann has a passion for men more pronounced than her overbite, and it isn’t long before she’s parting the sheets for Lenny Bean. But just before Grace leaves Hixson for New York City, she uncovers an insidious plot: the Bean family is trying to steal Betty Ann’s estate.
Grace flees to New York, where she faces her darkest hours. In a world of surprises, Grace truly discovers paradise.
Praise for Dancing Backward in Paradise:
“Dancing Backward in Paradise by Vera Jane Cook is a charming rags-to-riches story with a heartwarming ending, memorable characters, and a riveting plot that will make the reader forget the outside world. The characters in this story are rich and deep. At first, the reader might roll her eyes at Grace’s naïveté and childish reactions as she falls for Lenny, a sexy but lazy “cowboy with sideburns.” Yet as Grace experiences the outside world in sophisticated New York, a place “so miraculous and exciting, so painfully alienating that you just might find yourself amongst the confusion,” the reader will appreciate Grace’s ability to stretch and change. Minor characters have layers, too. The author’s craftsmanship is stunning and poetic. Cook draws on her own southern heritage to create masterful metaphors like “The car smelled like a Budweiser plant had exploded under the hood and those fools were the happy fish floating in the foam,” or “I was melting faster than ice cubes in Mama’s bourbon.” In the hands of an amateur, such comparisons would only equate one thing to another; Cook layers her metaphors to establish setting and deepen character development. Anyone who enjoys Southern stories, coming-of-age adventures, murder thrillers, or a satisfying romantic tale should read Dancing Backward in Paradise.”-Emily Asad, Foreword Reviews
“Dancing Backward in Paradise is the debut novel of award-winning theater actress Vera Jane Cook, about one young women’s quest to find herself in “Paradise” – New York City in the 1960s, a place beset by hippies, ambition, and the turbulence of the civil rights era. At first, nineteen-year-old trailer park resident Grace Place enjoys amorous trysts with her lover, Lenny Bean, more than anything else; but urged by her mother to seek fame and fortune in New York City, she works as a cleaning lady for the wealthy Betty Ann Houseman. When her lover betrays her and seeks to steal Betty Ann’s estate, Grace is shocked, yet remains intent upon fulfilling her mother’s wish and seeing New York City with her best friend, Ginny Jo. Together they will discover unforgettable surprises in this Eric Hoffer Award-winning novel. Highly recommended.”-Midwest Book Review
“The author introduces a parade of personalities that you will recognize–people that you will want to know and that you will miss. The life and richness she gives to the people of Paradise will take you in like a welcomed stranger. You will love knowing Grace, her family and her friends, both in Hixson and in New York. Life has its tragedies, humor and mysteries, and this story has all of that. Some really good novels slip through the cracks, don’t let this be one of them. Armchair Interviews says: Dancing Backward in Paradise is a story you do not want to miss.”-Armchair Interviews
“From the minute I purchased this book I was dying to read it. All I have to say now is MORE please from Ms. Cook. I don’t even no where to start except that this cast of characters, the places, the nostalgia, Ms. Cook’s writing style and humor is like the perfect book for me. All I need now is a wrap around porch, some iced tea and a warm breezy day! This is the book you don’t want to put down or ever end. I am looking forward to her next series of books! Please hurry!”- Carla Bamonte, Amazon Reviewer
“I absolutely cannot recall when I read a book that I enjoyed (loved) as much as I did “Dancing Backward in Paradise,” written by Vera Jane Cook. Starting with that wonderfully apt title, I became so totally involved in this story that takes place in a tailor park called “Paradise,” l was so totally fascinated with the characters who lived in the town of “Holy Horrible Hixon,” that I couldn’t tear myself away from that crazy, mysterious, wonderful trailer park world. My favorite characters were Miss Grace Place ( Every single time I read that name, I just giggled, wondering how the author ever came up with it.), Mama Place, and Betty Ann Houseman. Poor dear! There was such warmth and love (and a bit of lust) in all three of those characters, and Vera Jane Cook portrayed them perfectly. Then there was also Mrs. Bean talking in verse all the time. What a stroke of genius Cook’s part. Oh, and I also loved Miss Dorothea. One of the very best things about Vera Jane Cook’s writing is how she magically turn words into touch — into feelings. For example, talking about a little boy, Chelsie, “I felt him wrap himself around me like gift paper on a birthday box.” And about one of the several villains in the book, “He got meaner than a bumble bee shooed off a flower.” And, “She curled up there every day just as happy as a fly on buttered toast.” “I felt as high and as spry as a bumblebee let loose on a sunflower…..as effervescent as champagne on New Years.” And so many, many other wonderful similes. This book is filled with delightful characters, charm, warmth, love and last, but certainly not least, wonderful humor. In closing, I will just say that I ADORED the book, and look forward to reading many books from a superb writer.”- Arlene Uslander, Author
“Grace Place tells us her tale with a beguiling and often insightful sincerity. The characters are just a little south of normal, and this facilitates a wonderfully original story and storytelling. The pace is sedate, the plot winds and weaves in all the right places. This is a book that draws you in; it’s bold and blunt and makes no apologies for being so. It’s a southern fried fairy tale. Loved it.”-Ralph Hartman, Author
About Vera Jane Cook:
Vera Jane Cook, writer of Award Winning Women’s Fiction, is the author of The Story of Sassy Sweetwater, Lies a River Deep, Where the Wildflowers Grow, Dancing Backward in Paradise and Annabel Horton, Lost Witch of Salem.
Jane, as she is known to family and friends, was born in New York City and grew up amid the eccentricity of her southern and glamorous mother on the Upper West and Upper East Side of Manhattan.
An only child, Jane turned to reading novels at an early age and was deeply influenced by an eclectic group of authors. Some of her favorite authors today are Nelson DeMille, Calib Carr, Wally Lamb, Anne Rice, Sue Monk Kidd, Anita Shreve, Jodi Picoult, Alice Walker and Toni Morrison. Her favorite novels are too long to list but include The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, Cheri and The Last of Cheri, The Picture of Dorian Grey, Wuthering Heights, Look at Me, Dogs of Babel, The Bluest Eye, The Art of Racing in the Rain, Body Surfing, Lolita, The Brothers Karamazov, She’s Come Undone, Tale of Two Cities, etc., etc., etc.,
I received the book from the touring host for an honest review. I must admit that I'm a huge fan of Vera Cook's writing. Her ability to capture imagination and into her fictional world of words stuns me every time. She creates realistic characters you can identify with at all times; from the simplest to the loftiness of humans; you can always relate to them; feeling part of your every day life, as if you know them. Her story telling keeps you glued to the book and the words flows like a gentle river that builds continuously on the paper, giving you better insight to humans, their behaviors, decisions and passions. That which drives us to rise from the slumps, living a life we could only dream about; not thinking that happiness is possible to all. Provoking, original, touching, heart felt are only some of the words I can use to describe her books and you are always left with a sigh. You know the sigh; when you drink the last sip of the best coffee you have ever taken; that sigh that says more than words can express. An encompassing and satisfactory sigh that leaves you wanting for more. That's how I feel about Vera Cook's books; always wanting more. Dancing backwards in Paradise did it again. A fitting name filled with symbolic meaning as the story evolves from the first page and you get to know Grace Henrietta Place. Her name already hinting that you are in for some interesting reading. Written from her point of view you get to know her town, Hixon, Tennessee and it's people, her family, and her friends. Their everyday life on display as the author introduce you to the plot and the many twists and turns, not shying away from difficult subjects. Not mincing with words, but never judgmental or condescending. Just telling it as it is. The author's honest shining through every scene to create this great book. Grace Place was born and raised in the South with all its simplicities and narrow mindedness, trying to find her way in life. although hesitant. All her life she grew up with the knowledge of going to the North, making it big in New York; her mother telling her stories of her time in the big city with its bright lights that never sleeps. With her mother's help she got the opportunity, but with that opportunity comes many difficult decisions she had to make; meeting and working with weird and interesting characters. They all played their part in shaping Grace to be the woman her mother believe her to be. At times you thought she would let the dream go because of her innocence, naivety, and love for Lenny Bean. A manipulator, con-man, liar, womanizer, and thief, Lenny Bean made a very good character. Greed was his motivator that allowed him the luxury of living a double life, a double life he had hidden from Grace; deceiving her around every corner. Thankfully her eyes opened, maybe almost to late, but nevertheless it had opened. Her time in New York was a learning curve for the young Grace, but yet you see how she had evolved from naivety to rise in the lights without loosing her innocence. Finding true love in the arms of an entertainment lawyer, Brandon and his son, Chelsie. Even here the characters she met were interesting and I loved the way the author kept the connection between her life in New York and Hixon. Keeping her grounded at all times as she started to shine in her own corner of this huge city; each step she took, each decision she made, each person she met played a leading role in her life. A story filled with compassion and heartache as human emotions comes into play as she find her way through the many pitfalls life can throw your way, creating a book you get lost into. Really a great read I can recommend.