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Becoming Bonnie

Jenni L. Walsh

Becoming Bonnie

Jenni L. Walsh
“Life will do what it wants with you, huh? Eat you up, spit you out. Comes a point when you got to push back, make things happen for yourself.”Becoming Bonnie,  Jenni L. Walsh


The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family’s poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas’s newest speakeasy, Doc’s.


Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it?perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling?she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life, like her country, is headed for a crash.

Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

Becoming Bonnie is a great read…

Full disclosure, I listened to the audiobook of Becoming Bonnie rather than read it. Susan Bennett, the narrator, has a buttery-smooth southern accent, which drew me in. It felt like I was listening to Bonnie herself narrate the story.

The late 1920s were times of massive social change for women in America. Becoming Bonnie is a captivating account of how wholesome “Saint” Bonnelyn Parker goes from dreams of being a teacher, pining to marry her high school sweetheart, and singing in the church choir to smuggling guns into prison, singing in a speakeasy, kicking her husband to the curb, and becoming the other half of the notorious gangster duo, Bonnie and Clyde.

Promised the American Dream but given the Great Depression, Jenni L. Walsh offers a compelling account of why she fell so hard for a convicted felon- and turned to crime herself. Goodreads.

Becoming Bonnie is aptly named, and her transformation from good girl to gun moll is fascinating. It’s a coming-of-age story, not a romance. Except for a brief appearance at the beginning of the book, Clyde Barrow doesn’t reappear until two-thirds of the way through.

The writing pace is steady, and there are a healthy number of plot twists to keep you reading. The characters are engaging, (especially the gal-pal, Blanche), although the husband Roy Thornton does make an abrupt turn from charming highschool sweetheart to drunken wife abuser a bit suddenly.

The author has clearly done extensive historical research, speaking as someone who has been doing her fair share of Roaring Twenties research. The period comes alive; you can taste the dust and desperation as families struggle with the beginning of the Great Depression. She outlines what was historically accurate and what she had to imagine to create a compelling story in a section at the end of the book.

There are several Bonnie and Clyde movies available, but make sure to read Becoming Bonnie first. It will add another whole dimension to one of America’s tragic love stories.

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  1. JazzFeathers says:

    Sounds like a good read.
    But years ago I read a biography of the due and it didn’t sound this adventurous. I wonder about this.

    1. So much of history isn’t recorded, especially from the female perspective. I liked this interpretation of Bonnie”s story because it shows the people behind the murder and mayhem.

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