Title: Jo Joe
Author: Sally Wiener Grotta
Publisher: Pixel Hall Press
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Genre: Literary Fiction
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About the Book:
Judith Ormand learned hate and bigotry early in life. As a child, she was the only Black – and the only Jew – in a small insular Pennsylvania mountain village where she was raised by her white Christian grandparents. Now, she must reluctantly break her vow to never return to the town she learned to hate. During her one week visit, she buries and mourns her beloved grandmother, is forced to deal with the white boy who cruelly broke her heart, and is menaced by an old enemy. But with her traumatic discovery of a longburied secret, Judith finds more questions than answers about the prejudice that scarred her childhood. Jo Joe is a mystery of the heart that takes the reader through a journey of twisted memories, distorted love, and hate that threatens violence.
In beautifully written prose with a compelling style, emotional descriptions hit with a visceral punch, and stay long after the book is shelved. Sally Wiener Grotta has provided the turmoil of a lifetime and compressed it into eight short days, as Judith (also known as Jo) returns to her childhood home after the death of her grandmother. Few things can reduce a functional adult to a quivering mass of insecurity as will those two elements: and we follow every step of the journey as secrets and dangers from the past are unearthed, and the one friend she thought existed in the town she tried so hard to forget is no longer there for her.
There are so many elements that set Jo apart from the small town that she grew up in: mixed race, Jewish, and foreign born: all seek to constrain the child that only wanted to have friends and ‘fit in’. With careful unearthing of the secrets and questions that never had answers for the child, the fully grown woman manages to discover the fears that both rule and oppress the townsfolk: racism, fear of change, fear of outsiders and the cruel streak that runs unchecked against those who are different.
On the surface, this is a simple story that details one woman’s coming to terms with her past after a death. Alone, that is more than enough reason to read the story. But, digging a bit deeper you are able to delve into the hidden caverns where treasures are buried beneath the obvious: and the story becomes a striking portrayal of fear and insecurity, loss and redemption, and ultimately hope.
I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
About the Author:
An award-winning journalist and author, Sally Wiener Grotta is the consummate storyteller. Her work reflects her deep humanism and appreciation for the poignancy of life. Ms. Grotta has written many hundreds of articles, columns and reviews for scores of glossy magazines, newspapers and online publications; plus, she has co-authored numerous non-fiction books. Her short fiction has been published in the North Atlantic Review.
Sally Wiener Grotta loves to hear from readers! You can find and follow her at
About the Publisher:
Pixel Hall Press is a relatively new, old-fashioned small publishing house whose focus is on discovering literary gems and great stories that might otherwise be overlooked. Our mission is to publish books that energize the imagination and intrigue the mind, and to be a conduit between readers and provocative, stimulating, talented authors.
In this era of digital technology, Wall Street involvement and merger mania, many mainstream publishers seem to have lost sight of core principles and the purpose of publishing. At the other end of the spectrum is the veritable avalanche of self-published books that are notoriously uneven in quality. Small boutique imprints like Pixel Hall Press are reclaiming the heart and soul of publishing by reviving the idea that a publisher’s raison d’être is to find and nurture great writers, and to provide readers with beautiful, meaningful, truly enjoyable books.
Determined to stay small and relevant, Pixel Hall Press will be moving forward slowly and deliberately, adding only one or two new authors a year. Pixel Hall Press will also publish one or two single-themed short story anthologies annually; a significant portion of the profits from each anthology will be donated to a charity germane to the subject of the book.
Groups may purchase Jo Joe for a volume discount price, and download a free Jo Joe study guide from Pixel Hall Press