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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Walk Until Sunrise is an autobiography written by J.J. Maze. As she was growing up, Heather lived with her mom and big sister. Sometimes, there was a man in the house, like Ralph, an older Jewish man, who would sometimes dandle her and Sis on his knee while brandishing a pistol and telling them that he might just shoot their mom one of these days. Heather’s mom was gorgeous, a Marilyn Monroe, one who was also larger than life, and who could be alternately fun, creative and charming, or depressed and paranoid. As Heather grew older, the craziness and unpredictable nature of their lives began to bother her, as did her mom’s penchant for hanging out with men who beat her and left her battered and half-dead. Things got even worse as Sis and Heather reached puberty. Mom began to feel threatened by their adolescent sexuality. She’d say vile things to them and follow them in her car as they walked to school. She’d even pop her head into Heather’s classroom to see if she was really there. Despite the moves, the boyfriends and her mom's increasingly bizarre behavior, Heather continued to excel in school, garnering A’s throughout her school career. Then one day, she had had enough. She left, without money or jacket or plan, and she began walking. She was fifteen years old and had decided that anything would be better than life with Mom.
J.J. Maze’s Walk Until Sunrise is a literary tour de force. The author’s story is by turns exhilarating and horrifying, and, throughout it all, Heather’s spirit and raw courage shine through. I loved following as she took buses from Ojai to Ventura and found the ocean’s waves to be her healing muse, and those heady times when she discovered that the attic was a safe place where she could learn to be herself, immune from her mother’s often toxic presence and the trauma that was a daily part of her existence. I couldn’t help but worry as she sat in the bus station in San Diego and waited, and then my fears were heightened after she was dropped off in Vegas by the station maintenance man who had befriended her. Her accounts of her ordeals in Vegas, particularly at the hands of David and then Slick, are more horrifying than most fictional accounts, particularly because they were real. And the description of her escape from Vegas and her walk through the desert is masterfully presented and unforgettable. I had to remind myself a number of times that this was, indeed, a memoir and not fiction, as it read so very well. I will be watching for future literary works from J.J. Maze. Her harrowing memoir is a masterpiece. Walk Until Sunrise is most highly recommended.