Blues for Lilly

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I will never fail to be fascinated by stories passed down through generations. Even better than those are stories that have only just been uncovered. Illicit romances, criminal undertakings, or even just the revelation that one’s ancestors have had adventures modern people can only dream about. The stories don’t even have to be real: fiction is just as good as nonfiction for me.

That’s why I liked Blues for Lilly so much. Not only did Bradley’s attempts to figure out his grandmother’s past feel real, they opened up a whole new chapter of his family’s past for him. Though the phrase “answering questions he didn’t know he had” feels cliché at times, it’s apt here, and not once in reading the book did I find it anything but fresh and interesting.

But I ought to start at the beginning. This was the hardest part of the book for me to get through, as it jumped about in time and didn’t offer as much in the way of a proper introduction to some of the characters as I would have liked. Before I knew it, however, I felt properly situated in the story and was drawn into the mystery of Lilly and her mysterious JB. It’s a mystery that began years before, with an old photograph in a box. On the front was a house and a man; on the back, just the initials JB. Bradley had heard those initials mentioned before, in a fight between his parents, but it wouldn’t be until years later that he would learn the truth: JB was his grandmother’s lover. When he finally gets the chance to ask his grandmother about him, he learns that the man is probably dead. That doesn’t prevent his grandmother from telling him the story. If anything, it likely encourages her.

Through Lilly’s recollections and Bradley’s attempts to learn the truth from other sources, we find out just what happened between a young white woman and a handsome blues player. It is a story of forbidden love, told in a time when interracial relationships disrupted the status quo and a black man could be violently attacked for nothing more than attempting to speak to a white woman. Then, as ever, love could sometimes win out, and the romance between Lilly and JB provides a light in those darker times. Viewing the story through Bradley’s eyes puts a fresh focus on a traditional tale, making it more relatable to younger readers who may well have similar tales lurking in their own family histories.

Chris Hayden been working at City Book Review since 2012, so that makes him the keeper of knowledge. He manages the office and book reviewers (all 200 of them!), which is no small feat. If you’re looking at the book reviews here, you’re seeing them because he sent the books out for review. Without him, this place would fall apart, because no one else in the office knows how to use the postage machine. Two words: job security.


Reviewed By:

Author Werner J. Egli
Star Count 4/5
Format Trade
Page Count 222 pages
Publisher Aravaipa-Publishing
Publish Date 2018-Sep-15
ISBN 9783038644095
Amazon Buy this Book
Issue July 2018
Category Historical Fiction
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