cover image Crazy for Trying

Crazy for Trying

Joni Rodgers. MacAdam/Cage Publishing, $24 (361pp) ISBN 978-1-878448-73-6

Using the vast Big Sky country of Montana as a backdrop, Rodgers chronicles a confused young woman's journey of self-discovery circa 1979 in this uneven, mildly entertaining first novel. Dumped by her handsome artist lover and reeling from the death of her mother, a bestselling lesbian feminist author, 19-year-old Tulsa Bitters arrives in Helena, Mont., with $20 and a broken heart. Tall, overweight and overread, timid Tulsa soon discovers her own voice when she becomes ""VA Lones,"" the first female deejay in Helena's history. Sensual and exhilarating, Tulsa's on-air personality captures the hearts of the town's cowboys, including ""Mac"" MacPeters, a 45-year-old self-destructive loner and bookworm. But their road to true love is blocked by personal demons and such obstacles as Tulsa's persistent ex-boyfriend and a devastating fire that almost kills Mac. Rodgers, herself the first female deejay in Helena, has an authentic voice that often gets lost in overblown language and an annoying glut of book references that are more pretentious than literary. Most disappointing, however, is the narrative's quick descent into sappy romance. Tulsa's emergence as a confident, secure woman comes less from her obvious intelligence and hard-won career struggles than from her affair with a sexy older lover. (Nov.)