Warning: Some Spoilers ahead
Jenny of Lebanon is an easy, single day read. I got the book in the mail today and then, proceeded to read the book in less than an hour. It’s roughly 50 pages in length, to put it in perspective (that’s not counting any acknowledgement pages or about author page). However, aside from the book being short in length, it just grabs you rather quickly and holds onto you, where you can’t help but finish it in one sitting. At first, the descriptive introduction of the characters made me worry that it was going to be too descriptive (the first chapter is complete setup), but even that was too lively to bore me. I’m a sucker for cats, so an opening with a cat trying to catch a robin is a great way to keep my attention, be it a tad biased (love you, Marvin, you adorably bratty cat). Still, the minute we see Jenny and Billy interact, it’s fast-paced throughout the rest of the story.
What can be said about Jenny of Lebanon other than the fact that it is painfully relatable even if you aren’t dealing specifically with the same themes and problems as Billy and Jenny. As a person who fell in love and married my high school sweetheart, I’m a sucker for first love romance, but this book doesn’t sugarcoat the other side of that dynamic. First love is full of first mistakes, first fights, and first shortfalls, and while we don’t get to see that firsthand in this story, we see the aftermath of it for Jenny and Billy. They’ve dealt with the realities of life, and author, Gabrielle Olexa, is smart in giving just enough subtle, implicit glimpses at that to make you not only want to know more but also, grasp some of the lives these two has faced.
I don’t per se relate to either of them specifically in their choices to play this cat-and-mouse game of kiss-and-fake-the-make-up, but I’ve also never encountered the painful pasts that are peppered throughout their dialogue and carefully described settings/memorabilia. So, I feel an empathetic heart for them as they both struggle to decide if they should actually remain together or finally end it, and the book leaves that open to the reader to decide as it ends with her leaving, but Billy clearly leaving his door open for her return.
There are a few themes that are personally hard for me, as a Christian: some vulgar language, an implied sex scene that luckily peeks away into the next chapter for the aftermath, discussion of one completed abortion, and the implication of a second one likely to follow, but in the context of the story, they all makes sense. This story isn’t some fluff piece with cutesy childhood friends who married and lived happily ever after. It’s painfully real story of heartbreak, attempts to mend a broken marriage, and a past littered with regret and consequences, and in that, it is beautifully written.
As the book blurb puts it, “Jenny… hits a lot harder than a Honda”, and I think that’s a fair representation of Jenny of Lebanon.
Where to Buy it: Amazon
Where to See Gabrielle Olexa and her story: Twitter