Controlling Shelly Fagan


Romance - Contemporary
288 Pages
Reviewed on 05/18/2020
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Author Biography

This book was inspired by Oprah Winfrey, years ago, when one day while watching her show she stated we all have a novel inside us waiting to be told. I took her statement literally. Shelly Fagan came to life. And her story became my pastime, my hobby, my passion. Doubting myself as an author, I created sentences in a way to show and not tell the story and the love burning deep inside her. This task consumed me. Spending numerous hours editing, and restructuring sentences, now years later, I am proud to say my creation has been released. And to my delight, people like it. They get it. They feel the love. Thank you, Oprah.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Growing up in small-town America in the ’60s was exciting and full of discovery but when you are the beloved children of the town’s mayor, you have a particularly privileged existence. When Shelly and Steven Fagan find their world collapsing around them in the midst of the Vietnam War, they find they both have to grow up very quickly. In Controlling Shelly Fagan by Olive Dunn we meet Shelly in 1986, a wife and mother of two young boys but still a woman traumatized by her teenage years and the horrible things that happened to her back then. Shelly was just 17 when she and her “forever” love, Chris Johnson, conceived a baby. Shelly’s mother, who wanted so much more for her daughter than the life of a wife and mother that she’d had to settle for, had a plan. Spiriting Shelly away to the convent she herself had been schooled in, she made a deal with the Mother Superior to lie to her daughter and put the baby up for adoption, forever changing her relationship with her daughter. Shelly, twenty years later, is still haunted by the love she lost and the baby that “died” at birth. A happily married mother, she has moved on with her life… or has she? Can she ever forget the love she and Chris shared all those years ago and can she ever reconcile with the parents that lied and cheated her of the life she’d wanted so desperately?

Controlling Shelly Fagan by Olive Dunn is so much more than a romance. It is really a social commentary of a bygone age, an age of almost innocence that turned ugly with the social disruption of the 1960s and the war that took so many lives. I found this story to be totally compelling as we split the narrative between the middle-aged mother, Shelly and the rebellious but loveable teenage Shelly. I particularly liked the fact that the twists, although not massive, were consistent and totally surprising all throughout the story. I felt the author had the balance exactly right between the two totally different decades, the ’80s and the ’60s. The juxtaposition of social mores between the two eras was beautifully and at times painfully highlighted. The idea that young women of that time had so little control over their own destinies was stunning and, with Dunn’s superb writing, I was swept along in this amazing journey of self-discovery and forgiveness. Although it’s not quite PG in its rating there is little in the book that could upset anyone but a total prude and I found the loving, romantic scenes to be beautifully written. There were parts of the story that were able to bring a tear to the eye of this reader and, for me, that is the hallmark of an exceptional storyteller. This is, I suspect, a debut novel and one that has been years in the making. I can only hope that Olive Dunn follows up quickly with another book as this one definitely captivated me and I would love to read more from this talented author.

Patricia Reding

It all begins as the opening pages set forth events from 1967, when the life of a pregnant teenager, Shelly Fagan, changes irrevocably and forever in Controlling Shelly Fagan by Olive Dunn. The father of her child, Chris, is unaware of Shelly’s circumstances, as is her brother, Steven, who would otherwise have supported her, but who headed off for the Vietnam War just as the story begins. Prior to that day—the day that Shelly’s parents leave her at a convent to have her child in secret—Shelly had lived a life of the favored. Her father was mayor of the town in which she lived, and she and her brother were popular among their peers. But everything changed and Shelly’s faith was shattered when her parents left her under the care of the Mother Superior who did not take kindly to “wayward girls.” Alongside this story comes another, and that is a story of events that transpired 19 years later. As if living an entirely separate life in an entirely separate world, Shelly is now married to Philip and has two sons. Between these two stories, the reader learns how the 1967 events shaped Shelly’s life, and why Shelly reacts as she does when, two decades later, Chris re-enters the picture.

Shelly Fagan’s parents responded in a manner we would consider extreme these days, although in 1967, it was not so unusual to send a pregnant teenager away to have their child in secret. Controlling Shelly Fagan, by Olive Dunn, provides a good illustration of how a teenager might emotionally survive such a situation. It also shows how such events can color one’s future, and the many ways that lies can harm others. I felt deep sympathy for Shelly, particularly at the outset, given the cruelty the Mother Superior visited on her. As the story progressed, I was happy to learn that she found a dear friend and helper at the convent. That fact restored some of my faith in the goodness of others. Eventually, however, I was surprised by decisions that Shelly made that left me hurting for her husband, Philip. For that reason, I found myself looking forward to discovering what Shelly learned from her experiences, how her experiences would affect her actions toward others, and how her actions would ultimately affect the lives of others. As Shelly’s story illustrates, one life and one lie can truly have unimaginable ripple effects.

Deborah Lloyd

Shelly and Steven Fagan were as close as a brother and sister could be. It was the 1960’s, and they and Steven’s best friend, Chris Johnson, spent many idyllic summer days in their small southern Indiana hometown. Doug and Janice Fagan were devoted Catholics, highly respected in the town, and loved their children dearly. Shelly and Chris fell in love. On the day Steven left for Vietnam, Shelly’s parents took their pregnant daughter to St. Francis de Celle Convent. They thought it was the best option, as they only wanted her to have the best life possible. But, it traumatized Shelly with losing everything she loved. Nineteen years later, Shelly is married to Phillip Gerard, with two young sons, living in Louisville, Kentucky. When the family traveled to St. Francis, Indiana, for a baseball tournament, many memories returned to Shelly and many truths were revealed. In the romantic novel, Controlling Shelly Fagan, written by Olive Dunn, a riveting story unfolds.

The 1960’s decade is accurately depicted in this book. The author captures this decade well – from the music to high school and sporting events, to the constant drumming of the Vietnam war. The options for young pregnant women were limited, due to society’s attitudes at the time. Long-term effects of Shelly’s pain, lack of choice and closure are explored fully. Finding peace again became necessary for her, and how this was accomplished adds to a compelling storyline. The author skillfully crafted a plot that easily moves back and forth between two decades. Author Olive Dunn has presented a thought-provoking, page-turner romance novel in Controlling Shelly Fagan. An unforgettable, touching story. I truly enjoyed the book!