The Novel Life of Coral Ambrose, by Bonnie Ballou, is a fun and imaginative magical realism story that will delight book lovers.
Coral Ambrose is a personal trainer by day and a voracious reader by night. On the surface, she seems content. But a five-year gap in her memories has spurred Coral to record every aspect of her life and to save every single book she’s ever read. Her apartment is filled to the max with books and journals. During a visit to a used bookstore, the owner gives Coral a messenger bag he claims will give her clarity.
At first, the bag physically transports Coral into novels that she hasn’t read. She hops from one genre to the next and loves being swept away into a world of books.
However, each new adventure sheds some light on Coral’s life. Will her adventures help Coral remember her past?
Most genres follow a certain formula. It’s not a bad thing. Actually many readers enjoy the comfort of knowing what to expect. Twist and turns increase the fun, but the overall framework stays the same. Ballou seems to know this and understands the ins and outs of many different types of genres. And she cleverly uses the framework to different types of stories to add excitement, originality, and laugh out loud moments to Coral’s story. Her biggest strength is her ability to infuse humor while at the same time showing her appreciation for the genres. Yes, she pokes fun, but she never disparages certain genres. It’s clear that Ballou is the best type of writer since she has such a passion for reading.
Ballou also recognizes that in order for her story to work she has to have a likeable character. The Novel Life of Coral Ambrose isn’t a story about other stories. That’s just the technique she employs to tell the real story, which is all about Coral Ambrose. Coral has blocked out a good portion of her childhood memories and has developed coping skills that have helped her to a certain degree. Yet her coping methods have inadvertently prevented her from living her life to its fullest. Coral is stuck in survival mode. Why? That’s the key issue for readers to discover.
Childhood trauma is devastating. And the human brain does its best to protect an individual, even if it has to bury memories that are necessary years later for the person to move on. As the reader gets to know Coral more through her bizarre adventures there’s a sense of dread about what happened when she was a child. This dread keeps the reader engaged. Many possibilities may run through the reader’s mind. The big reveal is not only shocking, but it’s emotional and disturbing.
The Novel Life of Coral Ambrose is an intelligent, exhilarating, emotional, and amusing story for book lovers. How many readers have wondered what it would be like to live in a book? Ballou offers some insight and from this example, you may get more than you bargained for.
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