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callmezeldaReviewed by Jax Kepple

Call Me Zelda has a great premise: a fictional account of Zelda Fitzgerald’s life during and after her first stay at an institution where she meets the main character, Anna, who is a nurse at that mental hospital. Zelda lead such a fascinating life, and since this was before TMZ, Facebook and Twitter, no one knew exactly what Zelda and her husband, Scott, talked about, or how they interacted with daughter Scottie, or how nasty their fights were. It could have been an amazing opportunity to bring life to a time in the Fitzgeralds’ lives that centers mainly on Zelda’s hospitalizations and Scott’s alcoholic writings. Unfortunately, the story plays out as a sad attempt for someone who has done some casual, lazy research to tell a rather boring story. Oh, what might have been.

Author Erika Robuck writes the story in a way that screams “look what tidbit I found while researching.” It lacks a special flow that would make the story believable, and the scenes where Scott and Zelda are talking are forced with old timey language but the rest of the writing and Anna’s narration is so modern that it sounds ridiculous. A sample F. Scott Fitzgerald comment: “Once she gets an idea in her head she wont change it for a stack of Lincolns.” Meanwhile Anna says, “Ugh, please,” when referring to her neighbor who likes her. Then it’s littered with specific incidences of what the Fitzgeralds were doing, but with no back story or flow to the main story.

Anna comes off as pathetic and as someone who has been through personal tragedy and is trapped by her demons, which Zelda seems to exacerbate for some unknown reason. The second chapter opens with Anna telling her boss that she cannot work with Zelda anymore. After one chapter, her connection with Zelda is so intense that she cannot do her job. The reader is left clueless as to what exactly is going on, why this connection makes her feel so uncomfortable. And the entire “Act I” is this back and forth with Zelda being either wild or catatonic (with mild periods of lucidity), while Anna placates her and Scott drinks himself silly and tries to finish Tender is the Night.

Act II pops up 12 years in the future. Anna has settled her personal life down and with one sad letter – the reader knows what it says before she opens it – bringing closure, and then randomly Zelda contacts her out of the blue. The ending was incredibly predictable, and the last scene between the two was absurdly perfect, with the story wrapping up in a neat bow. But it left me very unsatisfied.

Robuck fails to explain the connection Anna has with anyone, let alone Zelda, and therefore this story falls very short of becoming a compelling must-read. The trite story line made it hard for me to even finish this book.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NAL Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.