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Reviewed by Lisa McCombs for Readers' Favorite
When Hattie flees from her husband, it is with a world of hope in her heart. Her story is told in A Room in Blake's Folly by J. Arlene Culiner. Blake’s Folly feels like an appropriately hidden location to land in. Unfortunately, the only available employment is playing the piano at the Mizpah Saloon, where the last musician met his demise with a bullet to the head. With the help of the local newspaper owner, Hattie convinces herself that dance music is dance music, whether played by a male or a female. The year is 1889, and a saloon is no place for a lady. Hattie assures the owner that she understands this but remains firm in her resolve. Dance tunes are still dance tunes, a piano player is a piano player, and a saloon is a saloon. People come here to drink and gamble, and they do a lot of both. As Hattie moves into a small room above the saloon, she does not know how her future will affect the people of Blake’s Folly or the future residents of that same room.
J. Arlene Culiner does it again with A Room in Blake’s Folly. Rich detail and scintillating dialogue transport the reader through the decades between 1889 and 2022 of this surprising familial saga revolving around the dark corner room above the Mizpah Saloon. With flowing descriptive phrases ("… the walls had a yellowish hue that only time could bring") and timely town progression, Culiner effectively intertwines the characters and descendants of Blake’s Folly. As the town population grows and falls because of overhunting, pollution, and the realities of environmental changes, the charm of this old world community remains intact. Cheers for this book!