Call Me Zelda by Erika Robuck
Published by: NAL Trade
Published on: May 7, 2013
Page Count: 352
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: Pre-Ordered paperback copy
Available Formats: Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook
Summary from the Publisher:
From New York to Paris, Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald reigned as king and queen of the Jazz Age, seeming to float on champagne bubbles above the mundane cares of the world. But to those who truly knew them, the endless parties were only a distraction from their inner turmoil, and from a love that united them with a scorching intensity.
When Zelda is committed to a Baltimore psychiatric clinic in 1932, vacillating between lucidity and madness in her struggle to forge an identity separate from her husband, the famous writer, she finds a sympathetic friend in her nurse, Anna Howard. Held captive by her own tragic past, Anna is increasingly drawn into the Fitzgeralds’ tumultuous relationship. As she becomes privy to Zelda’s most intimate confessions, written in a secret memoir meant only for her, Anna begins to wonder which Fitzgerald is the true genius. But in taking ever greater emotional risks to save Zelda, Anna may end up paying a far higher price than she intended….
Call Me Zelda was the second Zelda-based novel I read this summer. This book, which focuses on the second half of Zelda’s life, differs from Z by Therese Anne Fowler in that the story is told from a third party’s perspective. At the beginning of the novel, Anna Howard is a nurse at a psychiatric hospital and from the very beginning the reader is immersed in the story. Zelda is being admitted and the scene is heartbreaking. Anna alone is able to break through to her and, as a result, she is later brought on as a personal employee.
Through her eyes we see the breakdown of Zelda’s life and stability. Anna isn’t merely a conduit to tell Zelda’s story. Her beloved husband never returned from the war and no one is certain what happened to him. When she becomes consumed with the Fitzgerald’s lives, her family is justifiably concerned that she is using or allowing the drama surrounding her employers to avoid coming to terms with her own life. What Anna ultimately finds is that she cannot fix what’s broken in others when she herself is damaged.
Anna’s story is truly what kept me reading. Not to take away from what Erika Robuck did with the last years of Zelda’s life, but in Anna she created a compelling character for whom I became completely attached. I had not been expecting faith to play any role whatsoever in this novel and I loved the way that Padre Pio was brought into the story. Anna’s brother was special to me as well. I’ve known my fair share of devoted, mischievous priests and he is another I would like to have known. Throughout Zelda’s story remained present, but I would have enjoyed Anna and her story all on their own. That it was combined with the troubled ending of Zelda Fitzgerad’s life was a cherry on top.
I enjoyed Hemingway’s Girl and had looked forward to Erika Robuck’s second novel. I was excited when I was approved for an eGalley but I found the formatting distracting to me. Instead I preordered a copy and set off to read Z first. Had I known what I would be getting in Call Me Zelda, I would have moved heaven and earth to get my hands on a print ARC or review copy. I finished reading it leading up to an author event at Fountain Bookstore. I had planned on meeting Erika beforehand and I was chomping at the bit to talk to her about the book. Unfortunately, health issues in my family prevented me from attending and I still regret being unable to discuss this book with her further. I enjoy reading about this period in time, but this book connected with me more deeply than I had even anticipated. I have no doubt that Erika’s upcoming novel about Edna St. Vincent Millay will be delightful, but Call Me Zelda will always have a special place in this reader’s heart.