Synopses & Reviews
Life in the mountains of eastern Kentucky is bleak, especially for a black girl in the era of segregation. Quiet Audrey Martin plays the piano and looks up to her beautiful best friend, Caroline Wallace, “the shiniest pearl she knows.” With Caroline’s father in jail for killing her mother, her life represents everything that Audrey needs to run from. When a booking agent from the Apollo offers Audrey a ticket to join the booming jazz scene in Harlem, she can’t resist, not even for Caroline. In different worlds, following different paths, Audrey’s star soars as she tours the country and flirts with true love. Meanwhile, Caroline sinks into the trials and tribulations of a black woman in a backward country, where her ambitions only seem to move further out of reach. A powerful coming-of-age story, Saint Monkey marks the arrival of a talented new voice in American fiction.
"Townsend's debut novel chronicles the lives of two black girls growing up in the dusty Appalachian mountains of Kentucky in the era of segregation. As children, Audrey and Caroline are bound together by their unpopularity, and their friendship quickly deepens, as they buffer each other against the cruelties that their small world hurls at them. They share adolescent angst and their wild dreams for the future, but when Caroline's father brutally murders her mother, Audrey and Caroline's friendship is changed in ways neither girl fully understands. They grow apart during high school, colliding occasionally, but Caroline is busy with boys and Audrey recedes into a quiet life of reading and playing piano for her grandfather, later finding work as a jazz musician in Harlem. The freedom and energy of Harlem sing through Audrey as she trades her country sandals for stilettos and spends her evenings listening to legends like Thelonious Monk and Ethel Waters. Back home, Caroline struggles to take care of her ailing grandmother and bring some money into the house. There are some clumsy moments in the prose, but Townsend captures both the girls' relationship and the desperation of the small, black community in Appalachia." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
A stunning debut novel of two girls raised in hardship, separated by fortune, and reunited through tragedy.
Fourteen-year-old Audrey Martin, with her Poindexter glasses and her head humming the 3/4 meter of gospel music, knows she'll never get out of Kentucky--but when her fingers touch the piano keys, the whole church trembles. Her best friend, Caroline, daydreams about Hollywood stardom, but both girls feel destined to languish in a slow-moving stopover town in Montgomery County.
A young woman leaves Kentucky for the Harlem jazz scene, endangering a childhood friendship and embarking on a tumultuous new life.
About the Author
Jacinda Townsend studied at Harvard University and Duke University Law School before receiving her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana, and teaches creative writing at Indiana University. Saint Monkey is her first novel.