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blue flamingo book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Small seemingly insignificant keepsakes sometimes yield the most tantalizing clues to someone’s life. So it is with a matchbook at the beginning of Joyce Harrison’s moving novella Blue Flamingo. As Dylan Ryker is cleaning up his late father’s affairs in Chicago, he finds a matchbook within an envelope hidden in the back recesses of a desk drawer. The matchbook is from a place called The Blue Flamingo in Pelago, Florida. Dylan is forever seeking clues to his mother’s identity. His need to know her and why she left him pushes Dylan to consider whether she is connected with the Blue Flamingo.

Alone and aimless without ties, Dylan takes to the road. His cross country wandering seems directionless until it leads him to Pelago. Not long after getting to town, Dylan is working at the Blue Flamingo bar for owner Rita Cornwall. This is where Dylan’s story begins to flow. He is looking at every patron for connections. He knows his father must have visited the place once at some point in time and it must have some significance since the old man kept the matchbook. In Dylan’s search for answers to unknown questions, he meets many interesting characters at the Blue Flamingo.

The Blue Flamingo by Harrison is an entertaining tale full of multifaceted characters. Dylan is a character the reader can root for as he grows and changes with the story. His quest gives him a sympathetic edge and direction. Rita gave the book an edge. She is the world wary bar owner whose tender side is slowly revealed. Secrets are mixed throughout and Rita maintains some of the biggest. She is keen to let the past remain behind her as she continues moving forward. This is not an easy undertaking with Dylan seeking answers.

Although The Blue Flamingo is a novella, there is a lot of depth within these pages to sink one’s reading teeth into. Overall, the writing is good and it works to draw the reader into the plot. The Blue Flamingo is packed with supporting characters and it is at times difficult to remember how they relate to the story. Dylan Ryker narrates the novel in a sometimes conversational tone. Dylan is open, seems honest, yet there is always a hint of unreliability when the narrator speaks to the reader. I enjoyed Harrison’s choice of narration because it made Dylan very personable. Overall, this was a tender story that ends with much more emotion than the beginning suggests.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Joyce Harrison.