Reviews - What do customers think about Close Enough?
Midwest Book Review, September 2007 Issue Sep 7, 2007
Two women, a mother and daughter, are separated by dire circumstances and misunderstanding. Hilda is nineteen when she gets pregnant in 1942, and there's no way she can keep the baby. Rather than go through official channels, she entrusts her infant - not even knowing if it's a boy or girl - to a soldier friend of her brother Martin. The soldier and his wife are never heard from again. Hilda must go on with her life, but she can never forget that child whose memory haunts her.
Frannie Brewster, who we immediately discover is Hilda's long-lost child, has grown to maturity in a hardscrabble existence with an alcoholic adoptive father and a very unhappy adoptive mother. Her solution is to flee by first going to college, then joining the Women's Army Corps. Frannie has long dealt with the world by deflecting everything with humor. One time a friend was mentioning how another gal's mother had made her a lesbian, and Frannie quipped, "Hey, Margo, maybe if you buy her the material, she'll make you one, too" (p. 80). Regardless of the scrapes she gets in, the problems that arise, the people who cause her trouble, Frannie makes a joke of it. Women are drawn to her because of her ready wit, but she uses her humor to hold people at a distance. Nobody ever gets close enough to stick. Not for too long anyway. The journey Frannie takes to find love and her roots is by turns hilarious and engrossing.
After years of running for Frannie, and decades of grief for Hilda, both women long to discover where they came from to try to find what they lost. Hilda's journey, even with her partner's support, doesn't seem fruitful. Frannie's investigation into the past is frustrating. But neither woman gives up. In the process of searching for their roots, will they find each other? Even more important, will they find themselves?
While sections of this book were quite serious and dramatic, overall this book was also a hoot to read. In Chapter Twelve, when Frannie arrives at Fort Sill for basic military training, she's confronted by a drill sergeant who lines up all the women and says, "There's miles and miles of penis on this Army base, and you aren't going to get even a single inch of it" (p. 134). Little does the drill sergeant know that men are just about the furthest thing from Frannie's mind! The drill sergeant "didn't talk, she roared, and that was one of her more feminine qualities" (p. 134). I could go on and on quoting the funny lines in this book. Vollbrecht's writing style and sly humor kept me chuckling throughout.
From the time of World War II and the Korean Conflict, through Vietnam and up into the 1980s, this book covers the life of a remarkable woman. Frannie is so alive, she's someone you'd want to know, and her problems are so human that I couldn't put the book down. When the story ended, I wanted to know what would happen to her and how the rest of her life would go. I give this book my highest recommendation. ~Lori L. Lake, Midwest Book Review
Vollbrecht's Best Yet Aug 28, 2007
START OF BACK COVER TEXT - It's 1942, and nineteen-year-old Hilda Stenkiewicz has a secret: she's given birth to an illegitimate child. Ashamed and overwhelmed, Hilda turns to her older brother, Martin, for help. On his advice, she gives her baby to Martin's Army buddy and his wife, who are strangers to her. Hilda, heartbroken and devastated, leaves her hometown in northern Pennsylvania to start anew. She forges a bond with Elaine Huebner, the landlady at her boarding house, and soon, their friendship blossoms into a much deeper relationship. With Elaine's help, Hilda tries to put her past behind her, but she can never forget the baby she surrendered.
Frannie Brewster knows she's adopted but believes her birth mother abandoned her in an Alabama truck stop. Through gifted in academics and athletics, Frannie struggles with her identity - including her attraction to women at college and in the Women's Army Corps. After a long separation, Frannie is reunited with the lover she thought was lost to her forever. They discover that they share a similar heartache - one that will shape the rest of their days.
In the mid-1980s, before the convenience of cell phones and the Internet and with few clues to guide them, Hilda and Frannie go searching for the missing pieces in their respective lives. They draw ever closer to finding one another, but can they get Close Enough? - END OF BACK COVER TEXT
I read a lot and am always excited when I see a new lesbian fiction author introduced to the world. Unfortunately, these new authors often publish only one book. What excites me even more than new names is multiple publications. Such is the case with the talented Jane Vollbrecht, who has published four wonderful books in just over two years.
I continue to be impressed by this talented author whose last two books have each included two successfully intertwined tales. In `Close Enough' the reader is introduced to an interesting cast of characters. The first couple is Hilda Stenkiewicz and Elaine Huebner. Hilda gives birth to an illegitimate child and gives the child to Rooster and Wilma Jean Brewster, her older brother Martin's Army buddy and his wife. After the child's birth, Frannie moves away from her hometown to begin a new life. Unexpectedly, she falls in love with Elaine, the owner of her boarding house.
The Brewsters, unable to have a child of their own, adopt baby Frannie and raise her with love. Of course, Rooster's idea of love is more physical than Wilma Jean knows. After graduating high school with honors, Frannie goes to college and meets Terry. Terry teaches Frannie much more than she'll ever learn in a classroom then dumps her after going to graduate school. Years later after living their own lives, Frannie and Terry find each other again. These two women are looking for pieces of their past as well.
I particularly love Frannie. This gal started with nothing and still found success. Even after being treated inhumanely by her father, being jilted by her lover, and spending years in the proverbial closet in the Army, Frannie has an immense capacity for love and forgiveness. Hilda and Elaine are endearing characters who are victims of their time. They keep their love hidden from public view but are fortunate to have families who are open-minded. Wilma Jean is pathetic and hard to like. She's a weak woman who can't (or won't) think for herself and makes those around her miserable. Of course, this tragic character is a big part of the ribbon that binds this story together.
Vollbrecht gets better with every new book and is stealthily becoming one of my favorite authors. Her characters are vibrant, dimensional and alive. Her stories are original and thought-provoking. Her talent is unquestionable. `Close Enough' is one book that will remain a permanent part of my personal collection. Do yourself a favor and get your own copy today.
A Journey of Heartbreak and Celebration Jul 22, 2007
Ms Vollbrecht has done it again. She has taken her newest novel, "Close Enough" out of the realm of just another lesbian story and has woven a story about real people, their joys and their sorrows, their searches for self through the twists and turns of this thing we call life. It is a page turner from the beginning to the end. This reader found herself unable to put it down. The characters are flesh and blood, so much so they become part of the reader's family. Their problems and set-backs demand the reader's full attention, and their happiness is cause for celebration and tears of joy.
Congratulations to this author for a job well done.
Another winner for Jane Vollbrecht Jul 22, 2007
If Jane Vollbrecht were a baseball player, her batting average would be close to 1000. Close Enough is another home run for her readers.
Close Enough is a family saga that begins in 1942 and continues into the mid-1980s, and it covers a lot of ground during those four decades. Readers move from locations in Pennsylvania to Alabama, from the states in the middle of the country to the southeast, and then to Asia and Europe. The geographic distance pales when compared with the emotional distance traveled, explored, and examined by the main characters.
The first few chapters are chock full of characters. By the time the book finishes, over a hundred people are mentioned. It may seem like a daunting task at first to process all the names, but the major characters soon sort themselves out while the rest fade into the background, and readers are left with only the key players, whose lives are intricately connected. First, we meet Hilda Stenkiewicz and learn of her painful decision to give up her illegitimate newborn child. This event sets the whole story in motion. Hilda never loses hope that someday she'll be able to find her child again. In the meantime, she discovers love in an unlikely place, not too far from her original home.
Then Close Enough shifts to its major focus to Hilda's child, Frannie Brewster. Readers witness all the triumphs and tragedies she experiences while growing up. You'll share everything from her high school graduation and college years to her army career and her loves lost and loves found. Frannie reaches the age of 42 with plenty of rewarding experiences but still has one nagging, unresolved issue: she never knew the real story of her adoption. What she was told was something her adopted mother considered close enough to the truth.
Dozens of family members, friends, colleagues, and supporters populate the book. Some are important, some merely drift in and out of the plot, much as people do in real life. Vollbrecht has a knack for developing realistic characters no matter how brief their appearance, and she makes her main characters unforgettable. By the time you've lived with Hilda and Elaine and Frannie and Terry, you've cheered their victories, agonized over their heartbreaks, and slipped into the normal mundane in-between-time, sympathizing, empathizing, and knowing them for who they are, but also knowing why their lives aren't quite enough to satisfy them.
Vollbrecht makes you visualize all the important features of each decade as it pertains to Frannie -- the Woman's Army Corps, Women's Rights, Gay Rights, fads and trends in music, radio, television, and the movies. History from World War II through the end of the Vietnam Conflict forms a backdrop for Frannie, but her concerns are focused on the faith, determination, and love of those closest to her, and her desperate need to reach closure in the one area of her life that isn't resolved.
Why did her mother surrender her? Will she ever find the answers after 42 years, four months, and five days of wondering? Or will she have to settle for answers that are merely close enough?
Fortunately, however, you won't have to settle in your search for good reading. Close Enough is as near to real life as it can get and still be fiction.
Not a typical lesbian romance Jul 22, 2007
Close Enough is a novel that spans decades and generations, but it addresses the same issues. What is family? How do the choices we make influence not only our own futures, but those of the people we touch? Never give up on a dream.
In 1942 Hilda Stenkiewicz is forced to give up her illegitimate baby and starts a chain of events that will not conclude until forty-two years later. She gives the child to an Army buddy of her brother and intends to keep track of it, but loses all chance for that when her brother is killed in World War II. Although Hilda meets Elaine Huebner and they build a rich life together, there is always that nagging desire to find the child that she really wanted to keep.
Frannie Brewster always knows that she is adopted, but she thinks she was abandoned by a mother who did not want her. Though her adoptive mother loves her, her father makes her early years torture and all she can think about is getting out of her small Alabama hometown. An outstanding academic record takes her to college and then to a career in the Army. Along the way, Frannie discovers that she is a lesbian in a time when that was still considered a mental illness. She struggles to find love and a way to accommodate it with the career she has chosen and a society that wants to treat her as a criminal if her sexual orientation is disclosed. Meanwhile, her adoptive mother is spiraling out of control as an alcoholic, depriving Frannie of any type of home life to fall back on. As she goes through the years, she searches to find a place where she truly belongs and to fill the emptiness she feels inside.
Eventually, the search is begun for Hilda and Frannie to find each other. The odds of connecting seem insurmountable, but each has a greater fear than that they will never connect. What if they do and cannot accept each other as they are? The loving families that each has found will make all the difference in how this question is answered.
Close Enough is Frannie's story. The reader sees her grow from eighteen to forty-two as she deals with learning about herself, strengths and weaknesses. She searches for love as she searches for identity and, like all true people, she makes mistakes. The particularly interesting part of the book is when it shows how lesbians in the Army dealt with their situation in the years before "don't ask, don't tell." While the romantic story is there with the necessary love scenes, it's secondary to the main story that is rich with details of a woman's struggle to cope with the rather difficult life that fate has dealt her. Vollbrecht proves once again that she can write a story that is lesbian, but with universal appeal. This is well worth reading.