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Review: When Vaudeville Came To Joplin 

***1/2
click to enlarge When Vaudeville Came to Joplin - By Cynthia S. Gillard
  • When Vaudeville Came to Joplin
    By Cynthia S. Gillard

Cynthia S. Gillard shares a charming private/public story pulling the reader into the world of turn-of-20th-century rough-and-tumble Joplin, Mo. Based on the real life of her grandparents, Clifford Hastings and Adella Marie Lawton, the novel unfolds as a coming-of-age narrative from Adella's point of view, revealing the mores of a lead and zinc mining community in the context of national and world events including the temperance crusade and World War I.

Gillard takes into the daily routines of narrow minded, small town America where the musically talented Adella grows into a beautiful young woman with a different vision for her life than what's expected. Much like the theatrical cliff-hangers presented in the elegantly appointed theaters of Joplin, not until the very end do we learn 19-year-old Adella's final choice - will she marry the dashingly handsome leading stage actor Hastings, ten years her senior, or will she choose a stable existence in Joplin over traveling town to town across the Midwest to bring live theatre to people hungry for melodrama, comedy and tragedy? No peeking allowed, just turn the pages.

The Oak Park, Ill.-born Gillard trained in ballet and performed in plays and musicals. She now is a partner in the Elkhart, Ind., law firm of Warrick & Boyn with degrees from Kalamazoo College and Notre Dame Law School. A published writer on legal matters, this is Gillard's first self-published novel available at all the usual sources.

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