Published by Blackstone Publishing on June 28th 2022
A deeply felt family narrative that examines the fine line between selfishness and what passes for love.
After nearly two hundred years of housing retardants, as they were once known, the Beechwood Institute is closing the doors on its dark history, and the complicated task of reassigning residents has begun. Ella Jules, having arrived at Beechwood at the tender age of eight, must now rely on the state to decide her future. Ella’s aging parents have requested that she be returned to her childhood home, much to the distress of Ella’s siblings, but more so to Lynetta, her beloved caretaker who has been by her side for decades. The five adult Jules children, haunted by their early memories of their sister, and each dealing with the trauma of her banishment in their own flawed way, are converging on the family home, arriving from the far corners of the country—secrets in tow—to talk some sense into their aging parents and get to the root of this inexplicable change of heart.
The Precious Jules examines the thin line between selfishness and what passes for love. This family story asks what is best for one child in light of what is perceived as the greater good, and just what is the collective legacy of buried family secrets, shame, and helplessness. The Precious Jules is a deeply felt family narrative that will make you fall in love with these flawed and imperfect characters standing on the threshold of an awakening they never expected.
Though I was immediately drawn to the synopsis of THE PRECIOUS JULES, my expectation that it was going to be a heavy, depressing read was not entirely accurate. Shawn Notcher has written the story of the Jules family with a great deal of sensitivity. The characters are all quite complicated and many are flawed but they are presented with a unique objectivity that made them realistic and, for the most part, likable and forgivable.
Though the story is centered around Ella and her potential homecoming, there are many layers and stories within stories contained here. Domestic dramas frequently lack the depth found in THE PRECIOUS JULES. I was amazed at the way the author was able to weave in the family dynamics of such a large cast of characters.
This book contained many elements which can be difficult to fit together. Yes, there were moments of despair and gravity. But as I finished, I found myself grateful for the senses of justice, healing, and hope I also experienced.
On a personal note, I grew up in Preston, CT and attended nursing school on the grounds of Norwich State Hospital. I graduated in 1992 and the hospital closed its doors in 1996. I witnessed firsthand the challenges facing the community, families, and residents — many of whom did not remember any other home. I now belong to a Facebook group composed of former employees, residents, and community members. The experiences shared with me over years are consistent with those Ms. Nocher brings into the life of the characters in this book. It is clear that a great deal of research went into the writing of THE PRECIOUS JULES.
Many thanks to Wunkerkind PR and Blackstone Publishing for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
4.75/5 glasses of vino to this wonderful read.