“A stolen urn sparks a daring adventure for one autistic young woman, and winds up delivering a masterpiece debut novel by a very promising rising star. Highly recommended!”
Judy Keeslar Santamaria’s skillfully crafted debut novel, Jetty Cat Palace Café, takes the reader from the sophisticated urban areas of Washington state to its remote cranberry coast, accompanying professor Morgen Marín on a life-altering quest.
Like a present-day recipient of a DNA test gone wrong, when 34-year old Morgen, celebrated pianist and music professor, leaves after visiting her elderly grandmother Eleanor, her mind is spinning. Eleanor, preparing for the inevitable, shared family history, documents, and longstanding questions, which blindsided her granddaughter.
Everything Morgen believed about herself is wrong—not an uncommon experience, but still . . .
For Morgen, clarity is often elusive. She frequently misperceives the world around her. Like Alice, after she walked through the looking glass, Morgen exists in a kind of alternative universe. While Alice’s experiences were novel, magical even, Morgen’s are not. She lives on the autism spectrum.
Setting out with her mother’s restored Volkswagen bus and the keys to a storage unit containing family papers and memorabilia, Morgen has a clear sense of purpose. She is on a single-minded journey to find her mother’s stolen cremation urn, learn the identity of her biological father, and free herself from the man who has dominated and abused her for years.
Her search takes her to a remote fish camp on Washington’s cranberry coast, miles away from the hectic, affluent areas bordering the Puget Sound. The cast of characters she meets are society’s flotsam and jetsam who drifted in on random currents and found safe harbor in this isolated place, straight into the Jetty Cat Palace Café. With the locals’ claims of the place being haunted, the café binds the motley group together with unseen ties.
How these random people, in this unlikely place, are melded into parts of Morgen’s past and future creates a story that stretches readers’ credulity and imagination. And, as in looking glass land, Morgen learns that things are not always as they seem, random events have meaning within their own context, and actions from the past exist as long as there is someone left to perceive them.
In Jetty Cat Palace Café, Judy Keeslar Santamaria’s often lyrical, meticulous writing, engaging characters, vivid imagery, and intricate plot work together to create a winner. -Chanticleer Reviews ★★★★★
“A concert pianist searches for the truth of her mother’s death and learns her own self-worth in Santamaria’s debut novel.”
…Santamaria offers readers characters that are vivid and memorable, and her prose carries itself with an easy, quick-reading cadence, as when Morgen recalls her mother’s sage wisdom: “Sometimes we don’t understand certain things, and all we can do is give life our best and keep moving forward. Maybe someday we’ll look back, and it’ll all make sense.” Morgen’s happiness at the end of the story also feels well earned—the recompense of a character who has learned to love herself, but only through long, hard struggle.
An encouraging later-life drama that offers its protagonist a “penny of hope.”- Kirkus Reviews
I love this book! I thought it was a beautiful translation of a passion for music into literature, with good sensory experiences and mysticism. There was a natural melody between the musical and oceanic themes. The story itself was like a piece of music - well-paced and building to a crescendo during which I couldn’t put it down! It was packed with imagery and lyrical language that perfectly embodied the themes. I loved the characters, and the protagonist’s healing journey. It’s a good book for anyone who is even slightly mystical, loves music, loves the ocean, or is looking for a renewed sense of hope, which maybe all of us at this point!
Reviewed by Rie (5 out of 5 stars) t
A wonderful, heart-felt story about life, love and hope!
I really enjoyed this wonderful novel and found myself looking forward to reading how the story would unfold. The characters were well-developed, very interesting, and had a way of stealing your heart! I looked forward to opening the book each day like meeting up with old friends, and I truly missed the characters at the end. I found this book to be simultaneously light-hearted and thought provoking, entertaining, and a lot of fun!!! Thank you for the opportunity to "get-away" from the stressors of life and simply enjoy such a lovely story!
Reviewed by Jules (5 out of 5 stars)