Author: Kristin Kuhns Alexandre

Publisher: Sisterhood Publications

ISBN: 9781484059647

Neci Stans, the heroine and narrator in Kristin Kuhns Alexandre's Gem City Gypsy is a spirited teenage Gypsy girl when she runs off with the Hubbards as their maidservant on the British ocean liner, RMS Lusitania in 1915. At the time little did she know that her life was about to be changed forever.

The Lusitania sinks after being torpedoed by a German U-boat near the coast of Ireland, with heavy loss of life. Neci survives and is saved by Lord Pool, who becomes her new employer and follows him to Kinsale, Ireland, where she takes up residence in his home and is treated as if she were a member of his family. Unfortunately, Lord Pool has lost his wife and daughter in the disastrous attack which has claimed hundreds of lives including the Hubbards.

Also living in Lord Pool's residence is Graham Moore who has eyes for Neci in more ways than one and whom she describes as being bold, insolent and obvious. Although, she does admit that she had some feelings for him, she nonetheless was still in love with Ezra Crawford who she left behind in Dayton, Ohio.

As the narrative proceeds we learn that Neci never knew her natural father who supposedly, according to her mother, had died. Her stepfather, Peder Delivery is a nasty, brutish and abusive man who thinks nothing of getting drunk and constantly beating Neci's mother which eventually leads to shocking consequences.

One day German soldiers break into the home of Lord Pool and murder him. Both Neci and Graham manage to hide and in time escape. Before running off, Neci finds a lock box belonging to Lord Pool that is filled with money and jewels. Rationalizing that Lord Pool was dead and has no family, Neci convinces herself that she is not stealing and has a perfect right to keep the treasure.

Neci ultimately finds her way back to Dayton, Ohio but assumes a new persona as Neci Star and takes up residency in a well-to-do boarding house. She is determined and eager to become a worldly woman and cast off the stigma of being a gypsy in a racist society where, as she states, “the residents looked down on the Gypsies, rating them only just a notch about the Negroes and probably their livestock.”

As for Ezra, she ponders if she still loves him or if he loves her particularly when she meets him with his girlfriend Marlene Schiller and is practically ignored by the couple. Apparently, Ezra is not so much in love with Marlene as he is with her family's wealth and their social status. And although his father may be the chief of police, he is also the Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and is a heavy drinker filled with a great deal of hate.

Using her “gift” with horses as well as her gypsy “visionary magic,” Neci befriends Gilda and her brother Ford Wilson, who will play decisive roles in a series of events that will have unforeseen ramifications and will turn her life around.

The real magic of Gem City Gypsy is Neci's first person narrative which is simple enabling readers to slide with her through an intense variety of emotions, experiences and challenges as she confronts the darkness of intolerance towards gypsies, African Americans, gays and others. In addition, we see a truly distinctive character evolving with unbelievable perceptive observations that reveal as much about herself as well as others in her life.

It is a story not to gobble up quickly, but rather one to muse over as it skillfully blends romance with thoughtful explorations of a variety of themes including evil, terror, homophobia, helplessness, intolerance and class distinction in an era of American history when people were irrationally driven.

Alexandre is a superb writer and her evocation and powerful illustrations of time and place with haunting imagery is well worth the price of admission. Are we going to see a sequel here?

Follow Here To Read Norm's Interview With Kristin Kuhns Alexandre

Follow Here To Purchase Gem City Gypsy (Volume 1)