Reviews for Roadwork

Roadwork is a novel about love between high school teen Kyle Sands and Valerie Willard, young teacher trapped in a passionless marriage. It is a story that is embedded in music, with notes about the threat and obstacles to the forbidden relationship that evolves between them. These elements will especially invite and attract music lovers who will relate to this special intersection between musical and personal attraction. The story takes place in the 1970s, and is steeped in the era's atmosphere. Drugs are commonplace, sex can be casual (even though the narrator admits that women can be complicated), and raging hormones drive many decisions, both good and bad. John Alvah Barnes, Jr. and Naomi Lynn Barnes do a fine job of crafting the social and personal interplays between various characters as the relationship evolves, for better or for worse, embedding the 1970s atmosphere into the story of a relationship that moves forward as Valerie meets Kyle's family and becomes a part of it. The problems of her past and his future often clash as Kyle finds himself increasingly involved in her personal life: "I wasn’t at all happy about her talking to her ex-husband. Well, technically he wasn’t an ex yet. She had talked about divorce, but she’d learned that she needed to live apart from him for at least six months before she could file." Her husband won't give her up easily...and neither will Kyle. From evolving threats and growth both individually and together through Kyle's music, which drives them both towards a goal and away from danger into unknown waters, Roadwork creates a compelling story of not just a forbidden love's evolution, but the process by which two disparate lives come together to form new goals. From student/teacher relationships and a musician's evolving new purposes to the intrigue created by threats that may or may not be interconnected, readers receive a moving journey of developing love and changes which probe the foundations of abuse and transformation. Readers with a special interest in recovery and growth situations and musician challenges will find Roadwork a realistic, moving psychological and social exploration.    

Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Midwest Book Review   
John Alvah Barnes Jr and Naomi Lynn Barnes’s latest is an elegiac portrait of an unconventional couple exploring the nature of true love. It is 1974. Kyle is a high school senior, merely going through the motions of his school life. Still scarred by the divorce of his parents, Kyle tries to find solace in music. Valerie, stuck in a loveless, abusive marriage, is an English teacher. When they meet, the spark immediately flies for Kyle. But Valerie, despite finding Kyle attractive, is reluctant to act on her impulses, owing to the age difference between them and the fact that Kyle is a student in the school. But Kyle is one determined young eighteen-year-old, and he won’t take no for an answer. The authors’ writing is nuanced, and their larger-than-life characters shimmer: Kyle charms with his wit and steadfastness. The authors beautifully portray Kyle’s inner yearnings as well as his teenage angst, skillfully illustrating the subtle variations and manifestations of self-doubt. The best part of the authors’ writing is their exploration of Kyle’s persistent side, which despite all the hardships stays intact. Valerie, with her vulnerabilities and struggles remains an intriguing character throughout. At once dreamy and dramatic, the authors’ crisp prose beautifully gives soul to Kyle and Valerie’s love story as they capture the tension and excitement of the teenage Kyle, his attraction for the lovely Valerie, and how he is shaped by the divorce of his parents and his love for music. Valerie’s struggles to come out of her abusive marriage, all the while fighting to discover her own path is portrayed with conviction. The conflict in the plot not only comes from the dangerous situation that the couple finds themselves in but also from their anxieties over family’s approval, money, and career path. Throughout, the authors’ descriptive eyes lend beauty and authenticity to this intricate tale. Part autobiography and part fiction, the book has the pull of a mature romantic drama, and the authors’ deep understanding of the intricate framework of romantic relationships provides this story both authenticity and rationality. They evoke the 1970s eclectic music scene with skill and conviction, deftly capturing Kyle and his band’s raw, infectious energy. A meditation on both finding relevance and acceptance in the face of extraordinary circumstances and intricacies of love, this provocative tale isn’t one to be missed.

     Tina S.
     The Prairies Book Review


What a wonderful story! I enjoyed it very much.

          Sherri W. ,North Wilkesboro, North Carolina

I couldn't put it down! This is one for my collection. 
         Aldeth P. ,Avondale, Pennsylvania

I recommend checking out the gallery and interviews on the author's website after reading Roadwork. I really enjoyed them.
          Lynn B. ,Centreville, Virginia

Roadwork is a page-turner, I had to see how it turned out.
         Diana A. ,Hays, North Carolina

     You have something special. I marvel at the transitions, you've really got them down. It's impossible to tell who wrote what. It seems like total teamwork. It's extremely well done!
Jennifer A. ,Baden, Pennsylvania

     Roadwork really took me back to the 1970s. It was so much fun reliving that time. All the musical references brought back so many memories.
          Verbina S. ,San Jose, California

Reviews for Rollover

 Fiction readers will find Rollover's story of a newly disabled medic's revised purpose in life to be compelling. It embraces not only the recovery process of a man who loses use of his legs in an accident, but his challenges facing the PTSD which emerges when he seemingly is on the road to a newly purposeful life (becoming a docent at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum). More so than most stories about disability and recovery, Rollover embraces a broader spectrum of concerns in the process. It highlights and emphasizes that physical recovery and renewed purposes aren't just the only challenges facing those whose lives are traumatized and vastly changed. This (and the fact that Jay Barlow isn't alienated from but is helped by a loving wife and adult children) sets his story apart from others...but readers receive an added surprise when Jay links the museum's holdings to an experience he'd had in the distant past. Was his encounter a timeslip event, a real connection, or fantasy? Jay explores all these possibilities as he becomes more intensely involved in the history of 1918: "Were my experiences real or were they just happening in my head? I'd asked that question of myself a thousand times, and I kept coming back to the same thing—it felt real. I'd asked Billy the question, and he seemed to think that it didn't matter. “Real or not, you’ve found a place to heal.” That was all that he had said to me." The experiences were new to him, yet all too real...but his wife thinks it's part of the trauma he suffered. Therapist Frank Turnbull also tries to help him: “It means that we are all predisposed to view the world the way that we do. Our worldview is shaped by our experiences, or lack thereof. It’s shaped by our likes and dislikes—what we’re interested in and what we’re not. It’s influenced by the people we come in contact with. And then, of course, there’s the factor of people seeing what they want to see.” “You’re saying that this is all in my head?” “I can’t make that decision. That’s for you to determine. All that I can do is to try to help you with your perspective. Because perspective…” “Is everything. Yeah, yeah, I get it. It’s up to me to decide if I’m crazy or not.” 


Is Jay suffering from the delusion that he's been transporting himself to World War I and dogfighting in a vintage aircraft from the era? Or is this a key to a full recovery and a more meaningful life and understanding of past and present traumas? Readers who choose Rollover will find the story's embrace of PTSD, history, recovery processes, and challenging new realities is thought-provoking and engrossing. It's impossible to tell what road Jay and his family will take during this long process, and there are many unexpected twists to the tale (including a surprise conclusion) that provide delightful moments of inspection. Will his reawakening enable him to leave the past behind? Can his relationship with Debbie also be revitalized during his process of rediscovery? Jay asks many of the questions those recovering from traumatic injury face on a daily basis. His experiences, while delving into the fantastic, embrace the entirety of this process in a satisfying manner that holds compelling lessons, while entertaining and educating readers about World War I. The multifaceted approach of this historical, psychological fiction story will attract those who seek stories that are unpredictable and delightfully involving on different levels. Fans of traditional timeslip sagas will be especially intrigued and delighted by the juxtaposition of reality and possibility that this story embraces.

Diane Donovan
Donovan Literary Services
Midwest Book Review
California Bookwatch