Book Review: Cameo
Thursday, November 8, 2018 at 3:14PM
Windy City Reviews

Cameo. Beth Jacobellis. Chicago: Eckhartz Press, March 5, 2018, Trade Paperback and E-book, 193 pages.

Reviewed by marssie Mencotti.

Just out of college and not knowing what comes next, Samantha Ricks visits a psychic, Ingrid, in hopes of obtaining a little guidance regarding the uncertain world ahead. The message is a little confusing at first, but a tragic incident from the past seems to be affecting Samantha’s present. All the signs point to a happy future, but there are adventures ahead for Samantha before she can realize her potential.

Cameo, by Beth Jacobellis, is an interweaving of the past, its impact on the present, and how our feelings can get in the way of understanding what is pulling us through to the future. The book begins in the present, but we are quickly transported to the cameo’s present life in 1994 and then again through vignettes from 1885, 1976 and 1989. 

Every chapter of Cameo begins with a detailed, grey-tone cameo repeated from the cover art, letting the reader know that the energy of this talisman is what will drive it through to conclusion. This is a nice round visual and thematic device that is particularly satisfying. It also begins the story by engaging us in Samantha’s life right away. The psychic elements are treated in a humorous and sensible way. For instance, Samantha is not intrigued by the decrepit and dusty home of pink-sequined Ingrid, the psychic. She remains skeptical until she gets a straight answer to her question about marriage and children. She’s going to get her money’s worth despite any possibly misleading clues. She remains levelheaded even when experiencing the vision of her departed brother and is actually comforted by seeing him looking at her from behind a tree.

As a contemporary woman, Samantha is not afraid of competing in a former “man’s world” of radio sales. Through an introduction, she presents herself to the general sales manager of the station as a job candidate. She’s quickly hired and thrown into the sales pit, but she’s a smart woman and lets the childish banter and silly advances of her colleagues roll off her back. Jacobellis keeps the story rooted in reality with the ride shares, fancy awards parties, and business lunches that are such a part of the radio scene. We see Samantha’s hard work pay off in a good sales list and a rosy financial future.

We admire her strength, but there are things stronger than Samantha, like the resolution of past wrongs. Samantha ponders her personal past, trying to make sense of the guilt she feels over her brother’s passing. The “cameo” was a gift her brother had chosen for her, and it seems to be her personal talisman as she stumbles through her young life. Ghosts from the distant past also make cameo appearances.

Samantha keeps reaching back for answers, but there are parts of the cameo’s history that she will not know but can only experience. She’s not aware of just how far back the trail unwinds, but, where love is unresolved, Jacobellis allows no statute of limitations. All wrongs must be put right.

Cameo is a charming story to read. It is not a long book, but this type of love story, with layers of the past all playing out at the same time, draws us into Samantha’s quest and carries us through a briskly-paced read. I enjoyed this book for its clear storytelling and mysterious overtones. I also found it refreshing that the past is not always looking to punish but merely to resolve. Although tragic events do occur in this novella that may have their own story to tell, all Jacobellis is telling us is Samantha’s story and why some of the things that are happening to her seem to be terrible but are ultimately leading her to a future that has the promise of happiness. 

 

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