Saturday, October 11, 2014

Last Night at the Blue Angel by Rebecca Rotert

Set in a 1960’s Chicago known as much for its legendary music as it is for its social and political tensions, Last Night at the Blue Angel tells the story of precocious ten year old Sophia Hill and her talented but self-destructive mother Naomi.  A gifted singer, Naomi escapes her restrictive hometown in Kansas seeking a career in the spotlight.  Spending years on the edge of fame, she’s convinced a recent magazine cover is her big break – soon the city and beyond will know her name. 

As her mother’s charms attract admirers at every turn, Sophia watches her with both awe and apprehension.  As the only child in a world of adults, Sophia worries and observes, clinging to her makeshift family, her unconventional routine, and her exhaustive lists of things she might have to invent after a nuclear attack.  Both wise beyond her years and incredibly innocent, Sophia loves her mother fiercely, constantly worried for the day her life with Naomi might change forever.

Last Night at the Blue Angel is both sweeping and incredibly character driven, giving the reader a look at the diversity of life in a city and a family on the brink of change.  Weaving a tale from both Sophia and Naomi’s perspectives, Rotert is able to create a world that is at once lush and heartbreaking, beautiful and gritty.  The characters of Sophia’s Chicago family are dynamic and warm, and the story will engage you from the beginning.  I highly recommend it not just to fans of historical fiction, family dramas, or Chicago jazz, but anyone looking for a book you won’t be able to put down.

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