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Voices From the Gaps

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Hot Johnny (and the Women Who Loved Him)
by Sandra Jackson-Opoku

Hot Johnny

Reviewed by Emily B. Heitzman

Though not the intricately woven web that was her highly acclaimed debut work, A River Where Blood is Born, Sandra Jackson-Opoku's sophomore effort Hot Johnny is an esoteric page-turner. In it she smacks back defiantly to those who may have criticized her first novel for its lack of "positive" male characters as she features the protagonist Johnny Wright. Neither is substance a matter that should be questioned in Ms. Jackson-Opoku's work. Her candor forces readers to face a vast array of society's maladies. In this piece she deals with sexual identity, father-daughter relationships, body image, female circumcision, adultery, alcoholism and incest. Commendably, she does not shy away from gritty reality, and does not allow her readers to do so either.

Unique perspective is becoming Ms. Jackson-Opoku's trademark and she stays true to her style in depicting the honey-colored, confident Alpha-male dubbed Hot Johnny. Jackson-Opoku is fast becoming the innovator to fiction that Tarantino has been to film as she weaves her tales. Its complex characters are revealed to the reader in circular fashion as we see Johnny unfold through the eyes and voices of the panoply of women who loved him.

A distinct aspect of the novel is the way in which the author portrays time as a pliable element. Instead of typical forward progression, events unfold in reverse. Her prologue ends fittingly with the line: "the beginning of the story starts at the end. " Because of the non-traditional layout, there are times when the reader is left feeling a bit lost, but the style allows for a culmination of events that is well worth the wait.