THE GIRL FROM THE PAPERS by Jennifer L. Wright
GENRE: Historical Fiction (Christian)
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House
RELEASE DATE: August 8, 2023
Inspired by one of America’s most notorious couples, Bonnie and Clyde, Jennifer L. Wright delivers a riveting tale set during the public enemy era of the Great Depression.
Beatrice Carraway has dreams. Although she’s aged out of the childhood pageant circuit, she’s intent on carrying her talents all the way to the big screen—if only she can escape the poverty of West Dallas first. But as the Great Depression drags the working class further and further under, Beatrice struggles just to keep herself, her mother, and her younger sister afloat. After a string of failed auditions, she feels defeated.
And then in walks Jack Turner. Though Beatrice is determined to pull herself up by her bootstraps, Jack has decided on a different path out of the gutters. It isn’t long before Beatrice is swept into an exciting and glamorous life of crime beside the man she loves. Keeping one step ahead of the law, she sees her dreams of fame come true when her name and picture are plastered in newspapers across the country. Yet as their infamy grows, the distance between them widens. While Jack begins seeking bigger payouts and publicity, Beatrice starts to long for a safe, quiet life and something deeper to fill the emptiness in her soul. But when the danger of Jack’s schemes ratchets up, Beatrice fears her dreams—and her future—will end up going down in a hail of bullets.
“I’m the girl from the papers. That’s who I am. That’s all I can be now.”
I only know Bonnie & Clyde by name and reputation; I haven’t really ever studied them or thought about what motivated them in their deadly crime sprees… or what could have happened had their reported background of faith really transformed their lives through a relationship with Jesus. But I’m so glad that author Jennifer L. Wright did take the time to research and imagine these things as she wrote The Girl from the Papers, a story of deeply flawed (and compelling) characters inspired by the infamous real life duo and their families.
Beatrice had my heart from the beginning. Even though she’s pretty arrogant and self-focused at first (unless it comes to her sister Eleanor), it all points to a deep heartache inside her – a searching to be ‘enough’ – that drew me to her in spite of her flaws. She truly is, even at such a young age, looking for love in all the wrong places… mostly through very little fault of her own in the beginning. She learns early on from her mother that desperation can cause people to do things they aren’t proud of, often at the expense of those they claim most to love. And while Beatrice is determined not to become her mother, I found them not to be wholly different after all. With one key exception that will set them apart in the end.
There’s a lot of grittiness in play in The Girl from the Papers. Bank robberies, car thefts, shootouts, alcoholism, abuse, murder. It’s clear that the author worked carefully to avoid either glamorizing the many sins or giving explicit details about them. Much is left to the reader’s imagination, and I felt the author achieved the perfect balance here. One word that kept coming to mind as I followed Beatrice & Jack’s criminal and sinful activities was ’empty’. Both of their souls were so empty. The money or cars they stole were not nearly enough to fill the void. A life on the run only leaves them more empty, and all that emptiness eventually leads you to the end of your rope. Wright so poignantly brings them both to that point and then beyond, and I was reading with bated breath, waiting for the dramatic implosion I knew would eventually catch up with them.
So yes, I thought of ’emptiness’ a lot as I read this book. But I also thought of the lyrics to the song ‘There Was Jesus’ by Zach Williams:
Every time I tried to make it on my ownEvery time I tried to stand and start to fallAnd all those lonely roads that I have traveled onThere was Jesus
When the life I built came crashing to the groundWhen the friends I had were nowhere to be foundI couldn’t see it then but I can see it nowThere was Jesus
In the waiting, in the searchingIn the healing and the hurtingLike a blessing buried in the broken piecesEvery minute, every momentWhere I’ve been and where I’m goingEven when I didn’t know it or couldn’t see itThere was Jesus
Because even amid the tragic ache to their narrative, even though Beatrice is clinging to what she thinks is love, there is the beautiful hope of redemption. He always provides a way out, doesn’t He? And in The Girl from the Papers, that comes from Alli and Ruth, two characters I really liked who show Beatrice a true picture of Jesus’ love. Jesus, the One who truly loves her more than any other. The One who pursues her, despite her sin, and stands ready to lift her out of the pit. The choice is Beatrice’s to make – and Jack’s too, for that matter – but even when she tries to silence His voice, He is there in the pit with her, tenderly waiting for her to turn to Him. This was such a profound part of the book, as well as a convicting reminder that sometimes I may be the only exposure to Jesus that someone has. So sobering, humbling, and inspiring!
Bottom Line: The Girl from the Papers by Jennifer L. Wright takes readers on a tumultuous journey through the ‘public enemy’ fever of the 1930s, following a young couple who want to leave ‘not enough’ and make a name for themselves. The story is an extremely compelling exploration of the choices we all are given, the ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ possibilities. Framed against a backdrop of the consequences of sin, the temptations of security, and the hopelessness of rock bottom, it is also laced with hope and wrapped in grace. The author beautifully weaves into the story an important message for Beatrice – for all of us: that the only one who gets to say who we are is the One who made us, who died for us, and who rose again to offer us redemption, forgiveness, true love, and eternal life. This story will linger with me long. An excellent selection for your next book club read!
(I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All views expressed are only my honest opinion.)
My Rating: 4.5 stars / loved it!
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Jennifer L. Wright has been writing since middle school, eventually earning a master’s degree in journalism at Indiana University. However, it took only a few short months of covering the local news for her to realize that writing fiction is much better for the soul and definitely way more fun. A born and bred Hoosier, she was plucked from the Heartland after being swept off her feet by an Air Force pilot and has spent the past decade traveling the world and, every few years, attempting to make old curtains fit in the windows of a new home. She currently resides in New Mexico with her husband, two children, one grumpy old dachshund, and her newest obsession—a guinea pig named Peanut Butter Cup. Connect with Jennifer at her website.
Read about the inspiration behind The Girl From The Papers here.
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