Bell bottoms. Hippies. Long hair, free love, peace signs, and expanding your mind. The early 70’s were a different time, and when I was offered the chance to read and review Bell-Bottom Gypsy: A Jessie Morgan Novel by Maggie Plummer, I decided a trip (not THAT kind of trip!) back to the days of protests and tie-dye would be an interesting use of my reading time.
Jessie Morgan has had it with her regular life. After growing up in a large, strict Catholic family and spending two years trying to figure out what to do with herself in college, she’s ready for a change. When all her friends bail for their planned road trip, Jessie decides to go by herself, traveling the country in her mustard-yellow VW Bug convertible and working seasonal jobs in order to fund her adventures. Jessie’s trek takes her from her home in Detroit down to working as a burgoo server and hot walker for thoroughbreds in Kentucky (where she meets a creepy guy named Twisty who becomes her boyfriend, and if an adult man who introduces himself as Twisty isn’t the biggest red flag in the universe, I don’t know what is), relaxing on the rocky beaches of Key West, exploring the national parks and stunning landscape of Montana, and plenty of other small stops on the way.
Jessie’s searching for herself on this trip, and along with the constant tension caused by Twisty’s possessiveness and drug use, this is pretty much the only plot. Jessie is young and clearly naive, which is shown in some of the questionable choices she makes, such as working as the only woman on a fishing boat for a lecherous man named Earl and sleeping in the RV of a couple she just met hours before (obviously, the 70’s were a different era, and she has the type of personality that helps her make friends everywhere she goes, but at times, it felt as though Jessie were lacking in any kind of self-preservation instinct). I didn’t see much growth in her as a character in the end, besides her newfound appreciation for Montana and the outdoors; although she does state that she’s a different person, any evidence of that wasn’t quite clear to me.
Where this book does excel is in Ms. Plummer’s ability to paint a well-defined picture of the scenery. Bell-Bottom Gypsy is heavy on description, but every instance makes you feel as though your feet are being pricked by the stones on the beaches of Key West, you’re savoring the tang of fresh key lime pie, floating on an ever-changing lake deep in rural Montana, or spending the night in a jail cell in Natchez, Mississippi (only because all the hotels are all full!). Ms. Plummer depicts some lovely scenes, and while I enjoyed the chance to travel without leaving my home (especially to Key West!), the excessive description seems to take the place of a more overarching plot structure, which leaves the reader feeling deprived of any true progression of Jessie as a character. While I did enjoy accompanying Jessie on her travels and viewing parts of the country I’ve never seen before through her eyes, I didn’t quite fall in love with her or her journey.
Thanks to Maggie Plummer for allowing me to read and review Bell-Bottom Gypsy: A Jessie Morgan Novel.