The Unconventional Path of Thelonius Aubrey

Young Adult - Coming of Age
270 Pages
Reviewed on 12/27/2023
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Author Biography

Gwen Banta was born in Binghamton, New York, and educated in Indianapolis, Indiana, where she received B.A. and M.S. degrees from Butler University. She is a member of Kappa Delta Pi International Honorary Society in Education. She also received a language certification from The Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.

The author has received numerous awards for her fiction, including Opus Magnum Discovery Award (Honorable Mention); Winner-Unpublished Stories: Great Northwest Book Festival, Los Angeles Book Festival, Pacific Rim Book Festival, San Francisco Book Festival, and Great Southeast Book Festival.

Gwen has also written several screenplays. Her screenplay, Skies A’ Fallin’, is currently under option to an independent producer. Awards for her screenplays include Writer’s Project Semi-Finalist, Columbine International Screenwriting Competition Finalist, Ohio Film Festival Semi-Finalist, and People’s Pilot Semi-Finalist.

The stage play, The Fly Strip, based on The Remarkable Journey of Weed Clapper and co-written by Richard Kuhlman, is currently scheduled for publication.

An award-winning actress of stage, screen, and television, Gwen is a member of SAG-AFTRA and Actors’ Equity Association. She is a supporter of Global Green International, Project Angel Food, The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Gwen lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Buddy, who is a major fan of her books as long as there are treats involved.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite

The Unconventional Path of Thelonious Aubrey by Gwen Banta is a coming-of-age tale that follows the journey of two friends finding their place in the world in post-World War II America. Having grown up as an orphan in the French Quarter of New Orleans, seventeen-year-old Thelonious Aubrey finally found his calling as an aspiring singer in Lulu's Hideaway, a bluesy gin joint. With his best friend, Bo Robertson, a trumpet player, and a young exotic dancer named Callie Thibaud, Theo entangles himself in a petty scam that turns sinister, leading Theo and Bo to leave New Orleans. Now in Harlem, New York, Theo and Bo find themselves in the company of famous jazz musicians and utilize their own talents. But soon, the past rears its ugly head, and the two friends must now return home.

Gwen Banta's heartwarming coming-of-age tale celebrates the power of friendship and the human will to chase one's dreams against all odds. The Unconventional Path of Thelonious Aubrey will make you laugh, break your heart, and, in the end, leave you with hope for the future. This is the second book I've read by Banta, and one thing I've noticed is her ability to craft relatable and fleshed-out characters who you feel as if you've met in real life. Banta's descriptive prose and narrative brilliantly capture the colorful atmosphere and the jazz music scene of New Orleans and Harlem in the late 1940s. Theo and Bo's friendship was the book's highlight for me, as their story arcs end with a satisfying climax. All in all, this is a must-read for readers who love coming-of-age stories.

Jamie Michele

The Unconventional Path of Thelonius Aubrey by Gwen Banta begins in mid-twentieth century New Orleans, where Theo, Bo, and Callie plan a musical act, and they meet Gritty, an entrepreneur with zydeco music interests. Gritty has a checkered past and a history of small-time scams, forming a connection with Callie and introducing a con. Tragedy strikes and a traumatic loss leads to new lives in Harlem for Theo, Bo, and Gritty. Theo's singing career takes off with the support of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra, while Bo's drug involvement leads to challenges. They move to a new apartment and find success in their careers. A reunion with Lulu in a Harlem jazz club prompts forgiveness and reflections on their past challenges. Lulu offers them a headline act, and they celebrate Bo's performance. However, an intruder arrives with a message, holding the group at gunpoint.

Gwen Banta immerses readers in a complete sensory experience from Louisiana to New York in The Unconventional Path of Thelonius Aubrey. The book was unexpectedly heartbreaking in two huge twists that I absolutely did not see coming, but in between it is the music scene that rocks the story. Between action and the characters' growth, both personally and professionally, Banta makes her novel almost impossible to put down. For me, Banta's effective establishment of 1949 Harlem and bringing that era to life are the standouts. Details like the visit to the Rockefeller Center, incorporating real jazz musicians, and the mention of historical events make for an excellent and realistic backdrop. Overall, this book has a little something for everyone, and I have no doubt that readers looking for an engrossing experience will find it here. Very highly recommended.