I first heard the name Jennifer Niven back in the early ‘90s, about the time her mother Penelope Niven’s nearly 900-page biography of Carl Sandburg was published.
In a lecture at Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Ill., Niven shared a story of her young daughter, growing up with a mother “obsessed with a dead guy” as the elder Niven studied the prairie poet.
I’m not sure if it were the mother’s pride, her storytelling abilities, or her optimism, but I was convinced that day that not only the elder Niven, but the younger one, too, were to leave marks on the literary world.
My suspicions were correct.
Today, Sept. 25, is the release date for Jennifer Niven’s latest novel, “Becoming Clementine.”
Jennifer’s name was splashed across a page – a screen, actually – shortly after her mother’s Sandburg biography was published. The daughter’s first work was an Emmy award-winning screenplay, “Velva Jean Learns to Drive.”
Jennifer followed that with a non-fiction arctic adventure story, “The Icemaster;” the biography of an Inuit adventurer, “Ada Blackjack;” a memoir of her own high school years in the big hair days of the 1980s, “The Aqua-Net Diaries; “ and two novels, “Velva Jean Learns to Drive” and “Velva Jean Learns to Fly.”
It seems as if life itself is an adventure for Jennifer, and it shows in her books. A diligent researcher, Niven leaves no pebble unturned, yet gifted storyteller, she knows how to weave a tale without threads that go astray.
In “Becoming Clementine,” Jennifer continues the story of Velva Jean Hart, the character who endeared herself to us in the first two novels. In the series, the author invited us along with the young girl from the mountains of North Carolina as Velva Jean learned to drive, to sing, to fly a biplane, to serve her country as a pilot.
The latest novel adds to the adventure in ways most of us would have never expected when we first met the young girl. In a quest for her missing brother, the pilot Velva Jean finds her way to Europe. Once there, as she enters the field of espionage, it may seem as if we’ll lose our Velva Jean when she becomes Clementine Roux.
Yet, be she Clementine or Velva Jean, the adventurous spirit we grew to love remains ever determined, gutsy and inspirational. Just as she’s done in each of her previous works, Jennifer Niven holds her audience spellbound from the first page to the last and sets the stage for Velva Jean’s next adventure.
How does 1940s Hollywood grab you? Guess what Velva Jean wants to be next.
Isn’t Jennifer lucky that she can help make Velva Jean’s dreams – and her own – come true and keep us entertained in the process?
© Ann Tracy Mueller 2012