Laura McBride weaves the stories of four women together in her novel, ‘Round Midnight. It’s cathartic and intensely character-driven. And just what my book group needs to make a scintillating discussion.
The story starts with June, who’s a rebellious young woman in the 1960s. She leaves her parents in New Jersey and strikes out to Las Vegas, where she makes a new life. McBride alternates points of view between each woman, so we also meet Coral in current day. Coral’s a music teacher in public schools, with a past career as a singer. She’s young enough to feel that world’s her oyster. But she has some questions about her past that no one’s ever answered.
Honorata is the third POV character, and her story starts as she leaves the plane bringing her to Chicago from Manila. She speaks no English and has been “promised” as a mail-order bride. Honorata is escaping from one nightmare to another very questionable situation.
As the story progresses, we also meet Engracia, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. It’s with her introduction that the story begins to tie the women’s lives tighter together. She’s the “Hail Mary” moment in the story.
Each of the women has mystery and sorrow in their life, as well as connection to a fictional casino called the El Capitan. The casino has a lounge called The Midnight Club, which also undergoes a transformation throughout the decades. The casino and the city of Las Vegas are characters in their own right, and faithfully told. McBride lives in Vegas and tells the “local” side of the city rather than the tourist perspective.
‘Round Midnight is emotional. It’s mature. McBride fashions a web of deceit, frustration, unhappiness, and joy.
The characters are fully-drawn, and never just stereotypical representations. The path of each woman is interesting in its own right. Plus, I spent paragraphs and pages wondering how they would all connect to each other in the end.
McBride masters the pace of her stories, while developing the interrelationships. Each moment drives us deeper into the characters’ hearts, while also moving them forward.
This is my second Laura McBride book, but not my last. I’d also recommend her previous book, We Are Called to Rise. I can’t wait to talk with my in-person book group about it next week!