Rare Bird. Oct. 2019. 384p. ISBN 9781644280287. $26. F
DEBUT This first novel by award-winning journalist and nonfiction writer Jacobs (Smogtown) is a love letter to Pasadena, CA, and small-town America, celebrated here with conviction and warmth. The tone, exuberance, and sense of humor may remind readers of Tom Robbins’s Even Cowgirls Get the Blues. Spanning almost 100 years (from 1913 to 1993), the story centers on the construction of Pasadena’s famous Colorado Street Bridge in 1913. As we might expect, Jacobs handles the historical material superbly, skillfully relating the complicated and tragic story of the bridge’s construction while convincingly depicting a variety of famous historical figures from Upton Sinclair to Lilly Busch, wife of Adolphus Busch. The fictional elements of the novel, presenting parallel stories across eras that concern a young inventor and his uncommonly smart dog, are not quite as strong, with room for growth in terms of character development and plotting.
VERDICT A promising and ambitious effort despite its drawbacks, this work is recommended for fans of debut novels, historical fiction, and books about small-town America.
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