Alice Black

Fiction - Literary
303 Pages
Reviewed on 05/03/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Susan Sewell for Readers' Favorite

A mother's reticence and secrets haunt a young woman throughout her life in the extraordinary literary novel, Alice Black by J. Schlenker. When Alice is six years old, her father and brother disappear on the same night. From the moment they vanish, Alice's mother withdraws from the world and Alice. After living a drab and lonely childhood, Alice leaves home to live on a primitive farm with two other couples. Five years later, Alice returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing mother. When her mother dies, Alice sells their home to a developer and restarts her life. Soon after moving into her new apartment, fate steps in and once again alters the course of Alice's life. A construction worker demolishing her childhood home uncovers something bizarre buried beneath her father's former shed. Did the discovery have anything to do with her father's disappearance? Had Alice's mother been hiding a horrifying secret all of these years?

Following the life of a young woman from childhood to motherhood, Alice Black by J. Schlenker is a poignant and memorable story. With captivating characters and an absorbing storyline, the story grabs the imagination from the first page. Beautifully written, the mystery behind Alice's father's disappearance is gradually revealed, teasing the reader along. Intrigued by Alice's remarkable experiences, I couldn't put the book down until I reached its satisfying and heartwarming conclusion. It is an extraordinary novel, and I recommend it to everyone who loves stories where ordinary people meet life's ups and downs with grace and courage.

Lorraine Cobcroft

Abandoned by her father in infancy, and growing up with a clinging and controlling mother, Alice leaves home at eighteen to live with Doug on an abandoned farm and enjoy the simple, ‘green change’ life many seek today. Despite the hard work and lack of conveniences, Alice loves life on the farm, but guilt over abandoning her depressed mother leads to her return to nurse the woman until her death. Alice then battles to fit into the ‘big city’ society she left behind and to embrace the modern technologies she struggles to understand. When the police come knocking with news of a frightening discovery, Alice Black fears perhaps her missing father may have met an awful fate. But the discovery leads to her meeting Tom, and her world turns. She must now uncover the secret her mother took to the grave.

Had I seen the rather delightful and quite unusual cover of Alice Black by J. Schlenker, I would have snatched up the book immediately. As it was, the brief blurb hooked me with references to a missing father, a clinging mother, fortune cookies, and a cryptic message piquing my curiosity. I was not disappointed. Alice Black is a fascinatingly insightful examination of the psyche of a young girl from a dysfunctional home. And it was a thoroughly enjoyable read with a deeply satisfying ending. Schlenker tells us Alice Black is women’s fiction and drama, but it also has a little bit of mystery and a little bit of romance. It is definitely a page-turner. I struggled to put it down.

This story gets off to a rather slow start, taking us into the hearts and minds of the characters so that we understand what makes them tick, and thus preparing us for their reactions as fate deals them various challenges. The story ending might have seemed a little too good to be true, but somehow the early character-building work Schlenker did so well made it credible. Those of us who crave happy endings will appreciate that readers can close this book with a broad smile, knowing that Alice’s future will be bright. Anyone who enjoys truly great character-driven stories — stories that make us feel we’ve walked in the character’s shoes — will love this story. Alice Black is just a fantastic read. I will be eagerly seeking more novels by J. Schlenker.

Romuald Dzemo

Alice Black by J. Schlenker is a literary fiction novel that explores the relationship eighteen-year-old Alice Black has with her mother and her family's secrets. Alice had escaped from her mother and left Queens for a rural town in West Virginia, but she comes back because her mother is sick and dying. Her mother seems to not be able to live without Alice and she eventually dies, taking with her the answers about Alice's father’s disappearance. Alice is ready to move on when strange things begin to happen — a visit from a detective in plain clothes and cryptic messages from fortune cookies — and she knows her quest has not ended with her mother’s death. Follow Alice as she finds answers in unexpected places and surprises she didn’t even think were possible.

It is a pulsating story that packs a strong emotional punch, inspiring pathos as the reader follows the young Alice struggling to make sense of her mother’s purposeless existence and her father’s disappearance. But the tone is not entirely doleful as it has hidden moments of joy that come at unexpected moments and a conclusion that is utterly delightful. The characters are memorable and fully drawn and the twisty nature of the story is intriguing as the protagonist uncovers secrets about her family and experiences the ultimate moment she has always wanted. Alice Black is a fast-paced, psychologically rich story that focuses on the broken threads of a family and the protagonist’s quest to heal. At times heartbreaking, but an altogether delightful story with a strong and satisfying ending. J. Schlenker writes with fluidity, making sure no word goes to waste, keeping the reader emotionally engaged as they follow the gripping plot.

Christian Sia

Alice Black by J. Schlenker is a well-crafted literary fiction novel with unforgettable characters. It follows Alice, who has to come home because of her ailing mother after running away to live on a rural farm in West Virginia with her friends. Now back, she is with a woman who seems disconnected from anything that makes life worth living and who clings to Alice as though she were life-support. But Alice wants to know why her father disappeared. A visit from a detective and a message from fortune cookies change everything. Can these lead her to the answers she has wanted since childhood and to her father? This is a story with a nerve-jerking twist and surprises that grow incrementally until an explosive moment.

This is a cleverly plotted novel with likable characters. J. Schlenker does a great job in writing the relationship between the protagonist and her mother, a relationship that is built on the mother’s need for the daughter. The shifts in Alice’s life are intelligently crafted and readers will adore how she evolves through the changes. The setting is gorgeous, from vivid descriptions of a rural West Virginian village to urban New York; it is detailed and I particularly enjoyed the author’s ability to create images that appeal to the senses. The characters are skillfully written and I loved Alice, Tom, Doug, and Chen. The landlord, an openly gay man who welcomes all kinds of diversity when it comes to the residents, is another interesting character. Alice Black is a spellbinder, a story with a strong premise and emotional depth. A young woman will stop at nothing to find out the truth about her father and it comes in a way she never expected — the story is delightful and heart-warming.

Joy Hannabass

In Alice Black by J. Schlenker, tired of her mother's clinginess, Alice leaves her home in Queens with a group of different people headed to live on a primitive farm in West Virginia. After 5 years she receives a call to come home and take care of her ailing mom, which she does until several years later when her mother passes away. Later on, Alice decides to try to find her father, but this isn't an easy task because she knows nothing about him, nothing about any family at all, really. Alice finally decides to forget her dad; that is until she has an unexpected guest who knew her mom and her life as a baby. But does she really want to find out more about this age-old secret?

Alice Black by J. Schlenker is an interesting and exciting story. I liked Alice from the start and felt bad for her because of her mixed-up childhood. Tom is a sweetheart and good for Alice. I enjoyed getting to know and follow these two characters as the plot progressed, as well as each of the characters in the story. Schlenker does an amazing job of researching this story as well as writing it. I enjoy her writing style and since she is a new author for me, I look forward to more exciting books from her in the future. There is a lot more going on in this story, so you need to read the book and have as much fun as I did reading it. If you enjoy a sweet romance with twists and turns and a lot of mystery, you will enjoy Alice Black.


Ms.Schlenker is one great writer. If you have never read her work, be prepared. She paints a picture for your mind with her words. You won't put any of her books down. Each book is a different experience and gives the reader a sense of the author's abilities.