© copyright 2013-2019 by Diana K. Perkins
By Bookworm - Oct. 29, 2017
Anyone who lived or grew up in eastern Connecticut will enjoy the well researched local history
and complexity of the characters. Diana Perkins has taken on a topic that humanizes the women
in the story and makes us think about the characters and the reasons they found themselves in the
circumstances that led them to Jenny's Way. Written with compassion about a topic no one
wants to face. There are a lot of facets to the situations, the characters, the events that Diana
describes so well.
Reviewed By Maria Beltran for Readers' Favorite
Jenny's Way is a path that leads to shoreline cottages near a lake in a New England mill town in
the 20th century. The story is told by John E. Walker Black - named so by his drunkard father -
as he recalls events in his younger years. John E. lives with his grandparents, and learns from his
grandfather that what was known to everyone as a fishing camp is actually a place men visit to
drink, have fun, or have sex with the women the place houses. The camp is run by Jenny, whose
granddaughter, Rachael, becomes John E's friend. Later a brute of a man called Buck Hunt brings
trouble to the camp when he sneaks in and beats up one of Jenny's girls. A nostalgic and
dramatic work of fiction that takes readers back to forgotten years, "Jenny's Way" captures the
heart of life in 20th century Connecticut. Perkins paints the scenes and normal goings-on in such
beautiful detail that time traveling seems quite possible, and one can almost smell the air. It
compels one to continue turning the pages. This is a story set in a small town that seems idyllic
on the surface, keeping deep-seated troubles simmering underneath, and how the truly good fight
against hypocrisy, intolerance and discrimination.
Jenny’s Way A Local Legend is the second novel by Diana K. Perkins set in a New England mill
town. Most of the story in her first book, Singing Her Alive, took place in the late 19th and early
20th centuries. Jenny’s Way is set in the middle of the 20th century.
Both novels made me feel as if I were in a time and place that truly existed—and among persons
whose happiness or sorrow I’d care about.
“Jenny’s Way” is a lane leading to four cottages on the shore of a lake created behind a dam on
the Shetucket River in Connecticut. The dam, as long as it exists, supplies the power for the mill.
In his boyhood the narrator and protagonist, John E. Walker Black—so named by his alcoholic
father—learns from his paternal grandfather the cottages aren’t the fishing camp they’re said to
be. The cottages house persons we’d now refer to as “female sex workers,” including two lesbian
For the time and place involved, John E. and the farmer grandparents he lives with are remarkably
accepting. John E. and Rachael, the granddaughter of Jenny, the good-hearted matriarch who
founded the camp, become close friends. Rachael lives in the camp with Jenny, but the visitors
dare not touch her.
The town tolerates the existence of the camp. Many of its mill-worker men, some with the
unstated acquiescence of their wives, enjoy visiting the camp. And not just for the sex, but for the
drinking, card-playing, dancing, and camaraderie as well.
This isn’t, though, an idyllic scene. Jerome “Buck” Hunter and his son Kevin are part of it as well.
“Buck honed Kevin’s aggression like a knife, saying he was proud of his playground bullying and
then turning around and swatting him for not running quickly enough to get him a beer.”
So John E. and Rachael’s families confront grief. Not a little of it stems from their own people.
John E. has good reasons for not living with his mother or father. And the townspeople can
sometimes stoop to rather low levels of hypocrisy.
Jenny’s Way, A Local Legend pulled me in and held me. Humans are capable of horrifying cruelty,
Perkins seems to say, but they’re also able to take themselves past that and endure.
A sampling of
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