ARC Review: “The Pink Bonnet” by Liz Tolsma

Title: The Pink Bonnet
Find it on: Goodreads | Amazon
Author: Liz Tolsma
Publication Date: June 1, 2019
Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc.
Genre: Christian, True Crime
Pages: 256

Many thanks to the author, Liz Tolsma, and publisher, Barbour Publishing Inc., for providing a digital ARC of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Synopsis (via NetGalley ) :

A Desperate Mother Searches for Her Child
Step into True Colors — a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

Widowed in Memphis during 1932, Cecile Dowd is struggling to provide for her three-year-old daughter. Unwittingly trusting a neighbor puts little Millie Mae into the clutches of Georgia Tann, corrupt Memphis Tennessee Children’s Home Society director suspected of the disappearance of hundreds of children. With the help of a sympathetic lawyer, the search for Millie uncovers a deep level of corruption that threatens their very lives.

How far will a mother go to find out what happened to her child?

Review:

The Pink Bonnet is an engaging true crime novel that had me in suspense up through the end. The sincere characters and their story drew such sympathy and attachment that I had trouble putting this book down. As one reads the book, you’re inclined to really root for Cecile, Millie, and Perry, and develop a terrible distain for Tann. Plot twists kept me guessing at the whereabouts and fate of Millie throughout the story, and the apex of the plot was incredibly exciting. I don’t want to give too much away, but I certainly never thought the story would escalate to such a level. From a practical perspective the climax actually had me wondering whether that portion of the story was still ‘true’ crime or if it had been fabricated a little. However I do believe Liz Tolsma did an incredible amount of research and kept the story true to its core.

I also thought the book was interesting from a psychological perspective – hitting on the morals, responsibilities, and obligations of raising a child. Cecile struggles to provide for Millie in the story, feeling both guilty and inadequate despite striving to do everything possible to support her small family. This insecurity makes you sympathize with Cecile, but also consider her dilemma. Is it better to keep a child with their loving family even if conditions are sub-optimal, or tear the child away to a more providing environment with a new family? In this case of course there are complications with the ‘adoption process,’ but the question remains an interesting moral point to consider.

Despite how engaging and plot-driven this book was, I did have mixed feelings after putting it down. Firstly, I felt the relationship development between Cecile and Perry was a bit predictable and cliche. It also wasn’t the content I was looking for when I picked up a true crime novel. The book wasn’t categorized as containing romance and it just wasn’t something I enjoyed. That being said, I’m also not big into the romance genre and for other readers I could see how it may have enhanced Cecile’s character and made the story richer. Taking the liberty to harp on Cecile a little more, I was impressed with her tenacity but also disappointed in how selfish her thoughts/behavior read at times. She was singly focused on Millie and appeared to have total disregard for Perry’s career and safety in some critical plot points. Perhaps this is due to the severe trauma of a parent losing a child which I thankfully can’t directly relate to, but I’d imagine there would be some remaining concern for the kind lawyer.

Overall I enjoyed the book but personally didn’t find it to be my style. If it were categorized slightly differently I might not even have picked it up. I felt there was more ‘romance’ content than ‘Christian’ so I would have appreciated having that additional information as a potential reader. However this would be an exciting and captivating book for readers interested in suspenseful true crime who don’t mind a side of romance.

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