Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Jana by Michael J. Sahno

Because of her sexual orientation, Jana Odessi loses her child care job. It's not until she is halfway across the country on a road trip with her partner that Jana realizes she must decide whether she has the strength to return home and fight for her right to be herself.

Jana was presented to me as a lesbian On the Road, although not in those words. I thought I was getting into a slice-of-life road trip story, and I was... eventually. It literally took half the book to get there. The first 48% detailed the tendious wrongful termination case Jana brought up against her former employer. And I mean every detail, even down to the opposing lawyer's lack of cuff links.

Obviously the case was an important part of her journey, but for someone expecting to read a different type of novel it seemed unnecessary to go into so much detail. Of course there are people looking for that type of legal drama and they would probably love the first half of Jana. Then they might be disappointed to find themselves tossed into a tale of two women driving across the country. Basically, I felt the story was bipolar and couldn't decide which kind of story it wanted to be.

The writing, however, was smooth and laid back. I loved that the story was set in the 90s but wasn't about the 90s. There were no moments when the writer felt the need to smack his reader in the face with nostalgia. It was a good reminder of a decade when things were beginning to change and people were finally starting to be open where they once had to hide. I feel that it's important to be reminded of how those changes felt at the time.

My biggest gripe with Jana was that the narration jumped back and forth from past to present tense. This would be fine if the narrator were telling a story in the present but also referring to the past. This wasn't the case here. The story continued mostly chronologically but for whatever reason the writer spent some chapters in the past voice and some in the present. I don't generally like reading narration in the present tense, but it at the very least has to be consistent.

I found Jana to be a fairly good read and an important one. Just because I wasn't on board all the way through doesn't mean other readers won't be. I still recommend it and hope that it reaches a lot of people.

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