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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Venice Beach is a contemporary fiction novel written by Emily Gallo. Maggie's long illness and eventual death took a toll on Finn that left him heartbroken, penniless, and with a bad case of writer's block. His publisher had gotten tired of waiting for his next best-selling work, and his only option was to move from the New York City he had loved all his adult life out to his daughter Kate's home in Venice Beach, California. Kate's mother died when she was quite young, so Finn had assumed the role of full-time parent while teaching school at the same time. Now Kate was teaching out on the west coast. The father and daughter are both somewhat anxious about this new living arrangement. Finn's whiskey diet and unconventional lifestyle disturbs Kate, and she has to fight the compulsion to micromanage her father's activities. Finn, meanwhile, has a whole new world to explore on the famous boardwalk of this historic California town, and he might just find his salvation hidden amongst the oddly compelling characters he meets there.
Emily Gallo's contemporary fiction novel, Venice Beach, is peopled with characters you'll want to know more about. There's the hoarder who once lived in Beverly Hills, the survivor of the Jonestown Massacre whose cat is called Mother, and a host of other compelling denizens of Venice Beach and its environs. I loved reading about Finn's adventures and seeing how the shell-shocked widower and has-been author starts to build his world anew. Gallo tackles a number of issues in this adult version of a coming of age story: the Jonestown tragedy, homelessness, the foster care system and the safety nets that sometimes do work, and the inevitable stresses and strains that occur when an elder parent comes to live with a child, and her treatment of each is deft and empathic. Her writing style is assured and meshes quite well with her gift at storytelling. I found myself swiftly drawn into Finn's story and was pleased to discover that Gallo has written a sequel to this remarkable and heartwarming tale. Venice Beach is most highly recommended.