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Book Review: Strawberry Fields

Strawberry Fields (Sing & Shout)Strawberry Fields by Patrick D. Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In 1968, I was a bookwormish fourteen-year-old whose biggest worry was finishing my math homework. In those insular, pre-internet times in peaceful suburbia, I was oblivious to the events taking place in Czechoslovakia during what would be called The Prague Spring. As I grew older, and the world grew smaller, I learned about those events, but they still felt a bit textbook-dusty. I needed Patrick Joyce’s Strawberry Fields to thoroughly brush away the cobwebs of time and drop me smack into the middle of Prague just as the Russian tanks came rolling into the city.

Strawberry Fields is a prequel to the first book in Joyce’s ‘Sing and Shout’ series, Back in the USSR. As with the first book, there’s plenty of puzzles to be solved and familiar Beatles songs are our clues.

We see Prague through the eyes of Josie, a rookie reporter for the Toronto Post. She’s got a connection to Czechoslovakia, thanks to a beloved grandmother who raised her on stories about her homeland. Grandmother also taught her a valuable skill: Josie can speak Czech. Her fluency in the language is what landed her this assignment. But before she even has time to settle in, her mysterious source has vanished (after informing Josie that “I am the walrus”), and now she needs to decide if teaming up with a reporter from the Paris News is a good idea. Can he be trusted? Can anyone?

Mrož stared at the wall next to him. It shook, pebbles flying off. Then it burst open from floor to ceiling, showering debris. Bricks crumbled down, and the armored front edge of a tank broke through. A long, searching gun poked out and swung side to side, like the antenna of a massive insect.

The pace refuses to let up, start to finish. I felt as if I were witnessing this adventure playing out in real time. I skipped lunch and read till dinnertime. I dove right back into the story after the dishes were washed and read till bedtime. What a pleasure it was to be fully in the thrall of a good story!

I closed the book feeling slightly exhausted and very satisfied. It’s a well-told story, written by an author that’s no stranger to European countries and their politics. Reading Strawberry Fields not only entertained me, it left me with a heightened empathy for the people who experienced the real-life events that inspired this thrilling adventure.

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Lori Alden Holuta lives between the cornfields of Mid-Michigan, where she grows vegetables and herbs when she’s not writing, editing, or playing games with a cat named Chives.

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