Copy Boy: A Novel
Jane Hopper was born with a twin, her brother, Benjamin, but she was the only one to survive. Growing up traveling from Amarillo to Sacramento and scraping to find work and get by during the Great Depression made her lean and scrappy; her father’s genes made her tall. Both would help her make a new life when she had to flee after a fight between her mother and father went horribly wrong. From Sacramento she would flee to San Francisco, where she would wind up making a new life for herself: as Benny Hopper. Her buried twin would live again.
From the very start of Copy Boy, I was sucked in, and Blanton-Stroud didn’t let me out until the epilogue. Jane is a compelling character, all sharp edges and Midwestern grit, and I was thrilled to see just how far she would go to get what she wanted. Jane is not your traditional historical fiction character, who always has a moment when she subtly reasserts her femininity by acting soft. She digs into what she wants and digs in hard. This means she has to make difficult choices, and not everything she does is laudable. Jane is no hero; she’s just a young woman trying to make her way, and that’s why I loved her so much.
In fact, that’s why I loved the book as a whole. Jane isn’t the only tough character. This is the Great Depression, and people scraping by for a living can’t afford to be delicate. Even people in the city don’t have that liberty. Blanton-Stroud has created a picture of the past that feels as real as any book set today, one where every detail feels necessary. The one complaint I have might well have been my fault; the climax felt rushed, but that could have easily come from my being wrapped up in the narrative as from any fault of the author. If I’m enjoying a book so much that I find myself losing track of everything, it might not really be a problem. If anything, it means I’m due for a reread sooner rather than later.
Copy Boy is, in short, a wonderful read and an intriguing look at a protagonist who is, as the epigraph says, a brave man and a good woman. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, and even many who don’t. Blanton-Stroud brings California in the 1930s to life in a way that doesn’t require scads of detail. It only requires humanity, which this book has in spades.
|She Writes Press
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