Embracing the Dawn by Jeannie Levig has to be considered one of the best books of 2016 and one of the best audiobooks of 2017. This book is, at its most basic, a book about relationships, and the healing power they can have.
The reader starts out waking up with Jinx and E. J. the morning after a one night stand. The thing is, we can see from the very beginning that nothing about this encounter is normal, for either person.
The following story takes us on a wild ride of twisted family baggage for both women, deep feelings and a backlash of fear, and a hope for redemption and happiness in the future. And not all of that with just each other. We also see a lot of the relationships with secondary characters, and how important those friendships are to the growth and happiness of our main characters. Levig handles all of these relationships with a deftness that is truly a joy to read, and reread. The story is well plotted, the characters have depth, and the story sucks you in and keeps you turning pages.
This story is about two women, both of whom are living in a type of confined box. Jinx because of how people react to learning that she’s an ex-con. And E. J. because she’s afraid of how people would react if they knew her innermost self. At first glance, these two women don’t seem to fit each other. But as we get to know them both, we see that E. J. may be the person who can make Jinx believe in the people outside prison, and Jinx may just be the one person who can make E. J. brave enough to live an open and truthful life. Being that person for each other could give both the courage to face those in their lives that they have unresolved issues with.
Amy: First is Jinx, a convicted felon who is trying to make a life for herself on the outside. At around 40 years of age, she’s been incarcerated for her entire adult life, and the circumstances leading up to her conviction mean that Jinx is still fairly young emotionally when she gets out. Jinx seems to hold on to a type of innocent naivety that endears her to those who stick around long enough to get to know her.
It’s hard to believe that Jinx has held on to this innocence given the details of her life that we learn. Levig doles these facts out slowly, and we are just as interested as E. J. in figuring out how this beautiful compassionate woman who seems to know so much about life could also be the person who made so many horrendous decisions. We get to experience the discovery throughout the book, fascinated by the mistakes one person can make, and how many very different ways they have to pay for those mistakes.
Our second character is E. J., a successful businesswoman, a rather less successful mother in her own estimation, and an unsuccessful wife. She has rigid rules for picking up women in order to keep her life safely compartmentalized. To her dismay, she immediately begins breaking those rules for Jinx. At the bottom of all of E. J.’s rationalizations and running is fear. She’s afraid that if she becomes the person she truly is on the inside that she’ll lose her children. It takes someone who touches her deep inside to force her to overcome the fear she’s lived with for so long.
The secondary characters get a shout-out in this book, simply because they added so much value to all of Jinx and E. J.’s struggle.
On Jinx’s side are Reggie and Sparkle, who come to Jinx’s aid with a unique perspective not only of Jinx’s past, but of the things both main characters need.
E. J. has Gwen and Taylor, the type of friends who force E. J. to face truths she doesn’t want to face, and give her the kick to the pants that she needs sometimes. I would also add in the families of both women, but won’t name them for brevity’s sake.
Sheena: I loved the complexity that Levig managed with both women. On the surface, it seems that Jinx is just a simple woman looking for a good time but as the story develops we discover layer after layer of her inner life.
The characters were deep and wonderfully unique. I really enjoyed getting to know these two women.
The Writing Style
Amy: This book is written in third person limited, with point of view switching between Jinx and E. J. It works really well for the story, and we get to see inside each woman, to what makes her tick.
The writing is good and easy to read.
Sheena: The writing style made for a perfect audiobook. It was well paced and interesting enough to keep my attention.
Sheena: This book was narrated by Melissa Sternenberg. She did a wonderful job of drawing us in.
The switching from one point of view to another can become confusing when you are listening to an audiobook unless the narrator really gets the voices and tone right. And Sternenberg did a beautiful job of keeping me in the loop.
Amy: These characters make you fall in love with them. You’ll root for them to find their way through their baggage to find each other.
When E. J. finally stands up for Jinx and what she really wants, I almost felt like cheering.
Sheena: The audiobook is gorgeous. This pairing of Levig and Sternenberg is a perfect match and I would love to see more come from this partnership.
Amy: There were none.
Sheena: I felt conflicted at the end. I loved how it ended but I didn’t want it to be over. This audiobook was a delightful surprise.
I am also not a huge fan of the cover. I think it makes the book look slapped together when in fact it is a beautifully crafted story and well-narrated audiobook.
Amy: This book is sweet and a wonderful love story about two women who aren’t perfect, but might be perfect for each other. The book also made me take a look at how society treats those who have made mistakes in the past, even when they’ve supposedly paid for those mistakes. Mistakes that add the word “felon” to your baggage don’t seem to ever let you get past them. In that way, the book is a little eye-opening. But it’s such a joy to read that I definitely recommend it to everyone.
Sheena: Get this one. And get it on audiobook. It will have you drawn into the story, cheering for the characters and wondering whether or not they will be able to overcome the obstacles that keep them together.
It was so much fun!
Excerpt from Embracing the Dawn by Jeannie Levig
E. J.’s arms snaked around Jinx’s waist and the full length of her body pressed against her backside.
Jinx stilled, a quiet moan escaping her throat.
E. J. rose onto her toes and lifted the hair off the back of Jinx’s neck. She kissed the bare skin. “Dinner smells good,” she whispered.
Jinx turned in her embrace, Kenny’s meal in one hand. “It’ll be just a sec.” She looked down into E. J.’s eyes, their green darker with arousal.
E. J. glanced at the covered plate and stepped back. “Okay, you have to tell me what that’s about.”
Jinx chuckled at the abrupt shift in focus, but she was grateful for the reprieve. “It’s for Kenny.”
E. J. looked up. “Kenny? The guy outside?”
E. J. blinked, looking confused.
“He’s homeless,” Jinx said. “He doesn’t have anything.”
“So, you feed him?”
Jinx shifted, uncertain of E. J.’s questions. “Just dinner.” E. J. couldn’t be one of those people who wouldn’t give a homeless person money because they’ll just spend it on booze or wouldn’t give them food because it’ll just encourage them to hang around. Could she? If she was, Jinx was fairly sure an ex-con wouldn’t be in the picture long. Again, better to know now. She waited.
E. J. hesitated. “Every night?”
Jinx nodded again. She looked away, then back to E. J.’s bemused expression. “He won’t take anything else. But he doesn’t have any food. And he-”
E. J. pressed her fingertips to Jinx’s lips, silencing her. Then she replaced them with her mouth in a deep, fervent kiss.
Jinx struggled to hold on to the plate. She gripped E. J. around the hips with her free arm and pulled her against her. When E. J. finally drew away, they were both panting.
E. J. stared into Jinx’s eyes. “Every time I see you, you amaze me in a new way.”
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Bits and Bobs
- ISBN number: 9781626395770
- Publisher: Bold Stroke Books
- Narrator: Melissa Sternenberg
Jeannie Levig Online
Note: I received a free review copy of Embracing the Dawn by Jeannie Levig. No money was exchanged for this review. I will always review books as honestly as possible and on occasion , refuse to review books.