I loved everything about this luring story, which unfolds from a present tense haunted by the resonance of a deep-rooted family saga. A Good Girl, by Johnnie Bernhard, opens on the highway from Mississippi to Texas, as fifty-year-old Gracey Reiter returns to her childhood hometown to stand vigil at her dying father’s bedside. Memories flood unbidden, while Gracey, a middle child, takes responsibility for her father, Henry Mueller’s, exit from this earth. On the surface, Henry Mueller was a hard man who unwittingly left many scars. Beneath the surface, a road twists through all the reasons why.
It is Gracey’s aim to do the right thing, even if it is from a sense of perfunctory obligation. Fighting a nagging resentment, she goes through the motions of tending to her father, while her older brother nurses his childhood wounds, and her younger sister seems to have gotten off scot-free. Birth order matters—it spawns separate experiences, yet Gracey achieves an aerial view as she reflects upon a generational line tethered with the common thread of hard knocks, desperate circumstances, and the will to survive for one’s children.
Only a profoundly sensitive, deep thinking writer could compose a novel with such breathtaking, well-crafted acumen. More than a pleasing story, A Good Girl makes a humanistic point that isn’t cheapened with a convenient moral. It’s a big subject, this business of the sins of the father. Author Johnnie Bernhard handles it deftly, and touches on the redemptive powers of unselfishness, when one puts aside their self-oriented feelings to seek a compassionate, wider understanding of cause and effect in a family dynamic reaching three generations back to Galway, Ireland.
I was invested in each character throughout this story. Those in the past were equally as vibrant as those present tense, and the way in which Bernhard wove this epic saga to come home to an uncanny full circle was heart-warming and emotionally satisfying, when Gracey’s daughter, Theresa, marries a man from Ireland.
A Good Girl is a story of personal growth on the inner plane; a story of faith and hope and the ties that bind. It is universal in theme, in that it is the kind of story that compels one to pause and reflect upon their own familial history. All praise to author, Johnnie Bernhard. I loved this novel and look forward to her next release.