Read Jo Joe by Sally Wiener Grotta Online


A Black Bear, Pennsylvania novelJo Joe is a mystery of the heart about Judith Ormond, a young mixed race Jewish woman. Seventeen years earlier, violence and hatred had driven her away from the small Pocono Mountains village where she was raised by her white Christian grandparents. Now,with the death of her beloved grandmother, she must reluctantly break her vow to never reA Black Bear, Pennsylvania novelJo Joe is a mystery of the heart about Judith Ormond, a young mixed race Jewish woman. Seventeen years earlier, violence and hatred had driven her away from the small Pocono Mountains village where she was raised by her white Christian grandparents. Now,with the death of her beloved grandmother, she must reluctantly break her vow to never return to the town she learned to hate. During the one week visit, she’s forced to deal with the white boy who cruelly broke her heart and is menaced by an old enemy who threatens new brutalities. But with her traumatic discovery of a long-buried secret, Judith finds more questions than answers about the bigotry that scarred her childhood.To read Sally Wiener Grotta’s essay about how memory becomes personal mythology, which is one of the themes of "Jo Joe," please go to her blog post "Malleable Memory" ( Black Bear, PennsylvaniaJo Joe is set in the fictional Pocono Mountains village of Black Bear, Pennsylvania. Black Bear was created as a literary folie à deux by Sally Wiener Grotta and her husband Daniel Grotta. Both Sally and Daniel are dipping into the same pool of invented locale and characters to write a series of separate stories and novels that will, eventually, paint a full picture of the diversity of life and relationships in a small mountain village. The first Black Bear story was "Honor," a novella by Daniel Grotta....

Title : Jo Joe
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780988387140
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 314 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Jo Joe Reviews

  • Doreen
    2019-07-14 09:05

    Judith Ormand returns to Black Bear, Pennsylvania, to bury her grandmother and to sell the family farm. Growing up as the only Black and the only Jew in an insular village was not a happy time for Judith. She explains, “’To me, Black Bear has always been a single, monstrous being, small-minded, bigoted and treacherous.’” Once back to the place to which she had vowed never to return, she is forced to re-evaluate her “black and white” memories and opinions of others, especially her high school friend, Joe Anderson.This is very much a character novel, my favourite type, in which the protagonist embarks on a journey of discovery about herself and others. It is clear from the beginning that Judith has made up her mind about the town and its inhabitants and she will not change her mind easily. As she admits, “once I make a decision, I never like going back on it.” Although people do not always behave in the bigoted way she expects, and even though several friends question her negative assertions about people, she remains adamant in the correctness of her view. For example, a new friend tells her, “’But life is much more nuanced. Most people are neither heroes nor villains, but ordinary individuals struggling to do right while dealing with their own everyday frustrations and personal needs.’” Nonetheless she continues “to categorize and define everything into easy-to-understand absolutes.”There is a great deal of foreshadowing that Judith does not have a complete understanding of past events which continue to haunt her. Her certainty is shaken, though insufficiently, when she realizes there is much she does not even know about her grandmother, “the woman who existed beyond her relationship to [Judith], who was defined not by the blood and bonds [they] shared, but by who she was with people and events of which [Judith] knew nothing.” Judith wonders, “Gramma, what else didn’t you tell me or let me see?” but then she soon returns to the “unflinching sureness” she attributes to her grandmother but which she does not recognize in herself even though a long-time family friend says, “’I’ve never known two women more alike.’” Irony abounds in the novel. When Judith finds and reads some of her mother’s diary, she asks, “How much of Mom’s perspective was distorted by her anger and shame? How much of it was true?” Yet she quickly dismisses her observation about herself: “What other memories have I . . . burned away by my anger and fear?” The greatest irony, of course, is that Judith is guilty of possessing the traits she most hates about Black Bear, “so much so that [they] distorted [her] other memories.”In order to be credible, characters must be human beings with flaws, neither perfect nor totally evil. Judith is certainly credible, and the portrayal of the grandmother is done wonderfully well. With the latter, the author has gone to great pains to show both the positive and the negative. Much the same can be said of the other characters, even the minor ones who make infrequent appearances. The one exception is Judith’s grandfather; he seems too good and wise. There seems to be nothing that he can’t do, and in the many flashbacks in which he appears, he often seems to be dispensing wisdom like, “’Some folks don’t really know how to react when faced with something . . . or somebody . . . new’” and “Learning to live in this world, peacefully, among people who sometimes aren’t smart or fair . . . that’s important, too.’” Besides examining prejudice and memory, the novel also examines love: people’s inability to love for fear of rejection, people’s ability to love someone despite being aware of his/her flaws, the harm that can be done in the name of love. This book is a wonderful character study of a dynamic character whose change is totally convincing. The reader is drawn in to try and figure out the truth as it becomes apparent that the narrator, Judith, is unreliable. There is also suspense in wondering how and when Judith will learn the truth and in the threats of violence she faces. There is much that will resonate with many readers: anyone who has ever lived in a small town will find much to recognize. Definitely, this is a worthwhile read.Note: I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.Please check out my reader's blog ( and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski).

  • Angela
    2019-06-20 12:09

    Jo Joe by Sally Wiener Grotta is an excellent, well-written book, in my opinion.It tells the story of a week in the life of Judith Ormand, a young Jewish woman of mixed ethnicity, who returns to the village of Black Bear, Pennsylvania after the death of her grandmother. Her grandmother, Martha, had made her promise seventeen years before, never to return to the village where she, Judith, had encountered prejudice and hatred. After receiving an anonymous message that she is needed by Martha, Judith returns. She is too late to see her grandmother before she dies, but there is much to do to pack up the family farmhouse and settle the details of the estate.Judith meets old friends from the past; makes new friends and encounters some enemies too. She has many decisions to make during her week in Black Bear and not many of them are easy. She listens to advice from every direction, but ultimately, she has to follow her heart. I do not wish to say more about the plot, as I feel it would spoil the book for other readers. What I can say is that there is so much to love about Jo Joe: the well defined characters; the wonderful descriptions of the farm and surrounding forest; the exploration of the relationships between the characters. I was particularly enthralled by the relationship between Judith and her grandmother - how “hidden agendas” can alter people’s lives and perceptions. I hope that Sally Wiener Grotta writes more novels that are set in Black Bear - I would certainly read them!I received this from NetGalley in return for an honest review.

  • March Shoggoth Madness The Haunted Reading Room
    2019-07-12 07:06

    Jo Joe by Sally Wiener Grotta5 starsSet in Black Bear, Pennsylvania, a fictional milieu created by authors Sally Wiener Grotta and Daniel Grotta, “Jo Joe” is a multilayered tale of small-community life, bigotry, entrenched religion, and one individual’s need to break free to assert her individuality, in the face of community pressure to either conform or to disappear. Judith Ormand is a Parisian-born product of a black French Jew and a Pennsylvania mountains Moravian. Raised until adolescence in Paris, after the death of her Grand-pere and the dissolution of her parents’ marriage, Judith goes to Black Bear to live with her mother’s folks. Due to her dark skin and professed Judaism, much of the community shuns her, but he is inexplicably defended by Joe, a hulking product of childhood abuse and football star—until he suddenly shuns her as well, leaving her vulnerable to attack and assault.In her thirties when her beloved Gramma dies, Judith returns to Black Bear for the first time in many years (with the exception of her mother’s funeral earlier), to discover that the home and acreage have been bequeathed to Joe, whom her Gramma always distrusted. Determined to find an answer, the why of this sudden recent change of heart, Judith begins to turn over metaphorical rocks to peer underneath at the secrets such stones hide.Ms. Grotta effectively portrays the mind-sets of this small Poconos Mountain community, going far beyond the expected “small town-everybody knows everybody’s secrets and business” to delineate the layers of savage racism, indifference and fear of outsiders, cruelty and sadism, the hive-consciousness of mobs, and the ways in which such negatives grind at the individual, producing not joy and light but instead bitterness, resentment, and fear. If we are shaped by our environment, such shaping becomes clear throughout the residents, and former residents, of Black Bear.

  • Marcy Sue
    2019-07-03 07:09

    The mere act of humanizing the farmhouse in the beginning of the novel shows the skillful manner in which the author sets the mood for the unfolding of this story. Detailed descriptions of everything from the trees to the appearance of secondary characters to Judith's flashback of memories, made curling up to read something to look forward to and plan for. "JoJoe" is a skillful, emotional journey into the life of Judith a woman who is black, Jewish and Moravian amongst other things. It tells of the conflicts she faces, prejudices and even manipulation by those closest to her. 17 years before our introduction... "She had my promise" She being Gramma. "You must leave Black Bear [the fictional Pennsylvania Poconos town that is the setting of the story] behind once and for all, so you can become whole again, become a healthy woman with no fears and lots of friends." Judith had spent most of her formative years in this setting. Her parents divorce drew her here once. Her mother's traumatic death in New York City drew her there a second time. Her Parisian father's remarriage and the uncomfortable situation integrating with his new family draws her there the third and lengthiest time. It is during her third stay when she encounters the ugly faces of ignorant prejudices. The color of her skin, inherited from the mix of her white mother and black father, and her Jewish heritage, again inherited from her father and the mother she lost but who had converted to Judaism for the man she had loved, set her apart from those who would be her peers, acquaintances and perhaps friends. After a particularly painful incidence of tourment by children in school, in stepped Joe. The Joe; sportsman, popular and good to look at. His cloak of protection sees her through most of her growing up years. He becomes her best friend. Her only friend. Judith lives a life where only a handful of people accept her; Joe, Gramma, Grandpa and a small smattering of relatives who never become overly close to her and leave her to be brought up and cared for exclusively by her grandparents. Joe begins to call Judith Jo due to her initials and thus they become the duo JoJoe. During their time together the schoolyard pranks against her stop, she starts to think of the village as a potential forever home, and her grandparents farmhouse and land becomes the canvas for her teenaged years. Joe becomes a fixture on the farm. Gramma and Grampa both may have had reservations or concerns at some point but we learn that at the very least, Gramma takes Joe aside for an adult chat. Black Bear is a small town. Everybody knows everybody. There are no secrets that are not whispered everywhere from the school playground to kitchen tables to the church. "Grampa often quiped that the local firemen were motivated by about 40% altruism and 60% gawking curiosity." During a football game during Judith and Joe's senior year in high school, Joe is seriously injured. The moment he was injured, he pushed Judith away. The story begins with Judith, now a woman in her mid-thirties with great philanthropic reach who has been able to do so because of her own business success, inheritance and family money. She lives modestly and carries little with her at any given point, including no great attachment to persons. She is summoned home by an anonymous and ominous phone call. By the time the message reaches her, her grandmother has passed. She is flying home not to say goodbye but to settled the family estate. Her assumption that this will be like a business transaction, handled by hiring the right people to attend to the correct tasks is shaken when she learns that she has been given a role to follow as well as a path to forge. Her grandmother's funeral becomes a time for some very deep secrets to start coming to light. Judith, by means of having kept her promise to never return to Black Bear while her grandmother was alive did not know of all the actions, interactions and deeds; both good and perhaps poorly thought out, that her grandmother had done. As the church fills with mourners, Judith notices some other obvious minorities. While that kind of progress from her hometown was moving, what had a huge impact on Judith was the presence of a Rabbi who not only was there as a member of the community but who helped officiate the service and had obviously known her grandmother well. Judith's identity as a Jewish woman was something she wore as easily as others wore their white skin. She is stunned with wonderment that her grandmother would have kept this from her. What struck me was the impact of the funeral and the burial and then back to the farmhouse. Accustomed to being alone in Black Bear, Judith was unprepared that the town would have made arrangements for her. The farmhouse is transformed to a house for a mourning granddaughter. The traditions of Jewish law are given attention to and like the Mourner's Kaddish had surprised her by being recited so did the sensitivity of fellow Jews to cover the mirrors, set out a pitcher of water at the front door to wash her hands, the Rabbi's wife who brings her the remembrance candle, sits with her and speaks with her and lets her relax into the role of the mourning family. She does not need to defend whether her racial and religious beliefs are right or wrong. She is able to lightly and tentatively place her feet into the town that once betrayed her terribly. Words of faith, both religious and social contacts of faith; legal and informal play a role in Judith's acquaintance with the ghost of the grandmother she never fully knew, the town she had given up on and the boy turned man who once turned his back on her. There is an obvious method used by the author to express how routine can be soothing. Whether it is in religious traditions like the familiar Mourner's Kaddish or the Mezuzah on the doorpost or Judith winding the grandfather clock just like her own grandfather had taught her when she was a little girl, routine can break the mocking silence and despair or grief. If I were to pull a favorite scene from the book it would be a personal one. When considering disposing of the property left to her in her grandmother's will Judith is adamant that she does not want the land cut into smaller parcels. I actually snorted when reading the derisive comment about Levittown tracks. If you are not familiar with Long Island that may have no personal meaning to you. But although I did not grow up in the town of Levittown, I did grow up in a Levit built house in exactly the kind of neighborhood that she scorns. That a woman whose work takes her to the the world's farthest outposts where poverty is greater than wealth or education would be target connected to keeping a huge chunk of the Poconos for personal or perhaps future family use seems almost contradictory. She does endow a building for charitable work before leaving and I mean to pass no judgement or character assassination on this protagonist. I genuinely found myself liking Judith and wondering if she were a real person in the passage of my life would we become acquaintances or friends.My favorite quote from the book will be the end of my review. If you have read this far, you deserve the reward. "Now is all you get in life. A long series of nows." Looking forward to finding out if Judith's story continues. Sally Wiener Grotta has left me wondering about Judith and her future.

  • Julie
    2019-07-05 12:09

    Jo Joe by Sally Wiener Grotta is a Pixel Hall Press publication. This book was released in May 2013. I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.This book is set in Black Bear, Pennsylvania, a village in the Poconos Mountains. Judith, a mixed race woman, and Jewish, was raised here by her white, Christian grandparents.With Judith's dark skin, her religion and a French accent, her life would have been unbearable if it hadn't have been for Joe. Joe became her very best friend and protector.Joe's life was difficult. His father was abusive and a drunk. So, Joe's only experience at family life was when he was at Judith's grandparents home. Joe even gave Judith the nickname 'Jo' because of her initials.But, Judith's grandmother was not a big fan of Joe's. She kept a very close eye on the two of them the whole time they were growing up.When the two reached high school and the nature of their relationship turned toward physical attraction, things begin to change between them.Joe began to push Judith away.Then a series of catastrophic events tore the two apart for good. Judith left not only Black Bear, but the entire country for eighteen years. She never came back and swore she never would. Until she gets word that her grandmother has passed away. Now, as the only living relative, Judith has come back to Black Bear to bury her grandmother set her estate in order. Judith finds the town changed, but the prejudices remain. When Judith discovers some shocking details in her grandmother's will, she contest the will, turning the town on it's ear and making Judith once more the target of their wrath.Determined to sell the farm and get as far away from Black Bear as possible, Judith begins dismantling her grandparents possessions. As she goes through this monumental task, she is flooded by memories as she works in each room of the house. She remembers her mother, an uncle she never met, the relationship between her mother and her grandmother and she has pleasant memories of her grandfather.But, other memories of Black Bear are present as well. Dark, terrifying memories. With pressure from friends and family to hold off selling the farm, the memories Judith had buried, the inevitable run ins with Joe and the difficulties dealing with the will and the law in regards to liquidating her grandparents estate is enough emotional turmoil for anyone to deal with. But, things only get worse when Judith is approached by her worst enemy, an enemy far more dangerous than Joe. She now has to contend with the possibility that she is in danger. Events spiral out of control, building to a crescendo, that has far reaching consequences.This novel was an absolute page turner. Once I got going, I couldn't put it down. We know that things aren't always what they appear to be on the surface. In times of shock, grief, terror, and heartbreak we form a conclusion sometimes that is hard to surrender. In Judith's case, the memories of Black Bear are buried deep inside. She had no desire to ever revisit the village or it's memories. But, as evidence mounts against Joe and Judith sticks to her plans to sell the farm with dogged determination, there is the unbearable suspense of something coming. We aren't sure if it's something bad or something good. Judith learns things about her grandmother she never really picked up on before. She also learns the truth about Joe and his relationship with her grandmother after Judith left. She also learns some very important lessons about herself.Judith may never be fully accepted in the village she grew up in, but she will discover who she is, where she going, and what love and friendship is. The power of forgiveness and the ability to examine her own mind and heart with honesty will lead Judith and many others to a peace with the past and a true understanding of human nature and all it's flaws.This book has many avenues of discussion and I could prattle on and on about it, but I will just say that this would make a very good group read. Racism, controlling and manipulative behavior, women's issues, secrets, lies, truth, and healing are just some of the topics that come to mind. I stayed awake long after I finished reading the book thinking about all various issues the book touched on. A very compelling novel that I highly recommend to book lovers, no matter what genre you usually lean toward. This is one of those rare times I pull out the five star rating. A+

  • David Groves
    2019-07-20 11:26

    This story is about the main character's heart, which seems complete and whole at the beginning, when she traipses into her old hometown as a conquering hero. Even the reader is fooled. But gradually, you start seeing through Judith's anger, her preconceptions, and her inability to reassess. In fact, there's a lot of growth in this lyrical novel, and that's the best fiction, where the characters find ways to stretch themselves and become bigger than they were at the start.For most of the novel, this is about the characters in this small town, which could be Mayberry if not for the fine writing that exceeds that TV show. But at a certain point, this novel really becomes a page turner. After having a quiet and reverent tone for most of the novel, things start hitting the fan. As other reviews have said, part of what they're talking about is race and differentness, but it's also about how the narrator, who thinks of herself as better than everyone she came from, comes to realize that she has to become part of humanity rather than stand above it. It's a spiritual journey, in many ways. She also reassesses the grandmother who raised her, which is part of becoming an adult. Parents can encompass both good and bad, controlling and nurturing, dark and light, and when the character can step back and see those contradictions, as Judith does in this book, you know you're reading something truly rare.

  • Wendy
    2019-07-15 10:29

    "Jo Joe" is a captivating story of a woman forced to return to Black Bear, her childhood home. Once there, she reflects on happy memories with Joe and her Grandparents and then sad and painful memories of suffering at the hands of bigotry. Judith (Jo) was the daughter of a white Christian mother and a black Jewish father. After her mother's death she moved to Black Bear to live with her maternal Grandparents. Her color and religion singled her out and she was constantly bullied and tormented with racial prejudice. Joe, her best friend, became her protector until one day he suddenly pushes her away. Devastated, Judith leaves Black Bear vowing never to return. Upon the death of her Grandmother Judith breaks her vow and returns to settle the estate, and in turn, discovers hidden truths and deep secrets are revealed. She finds more questions than answers about the racism that scarred her childhood.A vividly haunting tale that is very insightful and emotionally abundant.

  • Teena in Toronto
    2019-07-14 07:23

    Judith's dad is a black Jew from Paris and her mom was a white Christian from Pennsylvania. When her parents split up, Judith and her mom move to the Manhattan (from Paris). When her mom dies, Judith is a young teenager and moves to Black Bear, PA, to live with her grandparents on their farm. Judith is different from the other residents because she is black and Jewish and gets picked on by the other kids. One of her schoolmates, Joe, protects her and they become best friends (he nicknames her "Jo"). One day, though, Joe turns on her and she has no idea why. Her grandmother sends her back to Paris when school is over, making her promise she'll never return to Black Bear.Seventeen years later, Judith is running an organization that helps women in Africa Her grandmother has died and she turns home for a week to settle the estate (her grandfather has since died). While she discovers some of the old prejudices still exist, the town has progressed that's in part to her grandmother. She's shocked to discover that her grandmother has left Joe and his family a large part of the estate so fights it. She spends the week packing up the house, deciding what to send back to Paris and what to get rid of so she can sell the farm as quickly as possible.This is the first book I've read by this author and I enjoyed it.The story was interesting. Judith had a lot of adversaries because of who/what she was but she had a solid support system with her grandparents and Joe (until he abandoned her). As an adult, despite her success, she still carried the old hurts within her ... she wanted to dispose of the estate and leave town, never to return. At times, it was focused on Jewish traditions which I found interesting since I don't know much about that faith ... it gave Judith comfort.I liked the writing style. The chapters represent every day Judith was in Black Bear. It is written in first person in Judith's voice. I found that the writing was well-paced and flowed well. It kept me wanting to read more. It dips back and forth from the present to the past. As a head's up, some of the language and activity are for mature readers.I liked the characters. Though Judith has some good memories, the majority of memories aren't. She wants to show everyone that she isn't the teenager everyone picked on so puts up a strong front. She thought it would be easy to pack up the estate and then get back to her life. She hadn't counted on getting pulled into the past. Joe is now married with kids and wants to be Judith's friend ... but she'll have none of it because she thinks he took advantage of her grandmother in her later years. Judith makes new friends with residents who weren't there when she was growing up like Rabbi David and his wife, Rebecca.Here's the link to the first chapter (go check it out!):'d recommend this book.Blog review post:

  • Suzy Wilson
    2019-07-02 04:00

    JoJoe is a story about the ties that bind. Raised in Balck Bear Pennsylvannia, Judith known (only to her best childhood friend and protector Joe) as Jo, returns to her childhood home upon the death of her Grandmother (Gramma). Always perceiving herself as an outsider, Judith has set herself a week to wind up her grandmother's estate (several properties, including a farm) and get back to her real life.What follows is a tightly-written exposé of that week, as Judith learns about and begins to understand some fundamental (yet hitherto hidden) truths about her life.Determined not to cede control, Judith nevertheless finds herself spinning rapidly out of kilter. No one is entirely who they say they are, and nothing entirely as it seems.Beautifully written and evocative, Ms Weiner Gotta has managed to capture the claustrophobia of small town existence, yet counterpointed its introspection with faith, support and community.This is an exemplary, multi-layered piece, cutting as it does across the fallacies of perception. There are none so blind, said John Heyward, in 1546, as those who will not see. This novel explores, with a light but tempered touch, the questions of prejudice, self-delusion and discrimination - exposing to the reader the choices inherent in all our belief systems.Who amongst us, I asked myself upon completing this work, ever really understands the motivations and innermost thoughts of those around us, including ourselves. How simple it is to allow our realities to colour and be coloured by perceptions. In this novel, there are no certainties. Religion, colour, status, love, honour, sacrifice, purification and reality are all tested, and found to be wanting. It is the differences we seek to wedge between us as people, as well as the fear and hate manifested by our own uncertainties that determines our path, and the faces we show to others.I really enjoyed this novel. Couldn't put it down. I think the last couple of chapters are a little too 'pat' for my liking - the epiphany is a little too convenient and convincing to be completely believable. However, I would recommend reading this novel to everyone.On the whole, a good, solid, interesting, if not somewhat densely-packed read.Enjoy it. I did.

  • Gaele
    2019-06-25 04:59

    In beautifully written prose with a compelling style, emotional descriptions hit with a visceral punch, and stay long after the book is shelved. Sally Wiener Grotta has provided the turmoil of a lifetime and compressed it into eight short days, as Judith (also known as Jo) returns to her childhood home after the death of her grandmother. Few things can reduce a functional adult to a quivering mass of insecurity as will those two elements: and we follow every step of the journey as secrets and dangers from the past are unearthed, and the one friend she thought existed in the town she tried so hard to forget is no longer there for her. There are so many elements that set Jo apart from the small town that she grew up in: mixed race, Jewish, and foreign born: all seek to constrain the child that only wanted to have friends and ‘fit in’. With careful unearthing of the secrets and questions that never had answers for the child, the fully grown woman manages to discover the fears that both rule and oppress the townsfolk: racism, fear of change, fear of outsiders and the cruel streak that runs unchecked against those who are different. On the surface, this is a simple story that details one woman’s coming to terms with her past after a death. Alone, that is more than enough reason to read the story. But, digging a bit deeper you are able to delve into the hidden caverns where treasures are buried beneath the obvious: and the story becomes a striking portrayal of fear and insecurity, loss and redemption, and ultimately hope. I received a copy from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.

  • E
    2019-07-19 04:06

    Judith Ormand is a mixed race Jewish woman. After her mother died, she was raised in a mountain village in Pennsylvania by her white Christian grandparents. Sally Wiener Grotta's novel, Jo Joe, opens with Judith's return to her grandparents home after a seventeen year absence. Her grandmother had recently died and she needs to settle the estate. She allows herself one week. The experiences of the twelve years Judith lived with her grandparents seriously impacted her life. With the exception of one boy, Joe Anderson, she was tormented by her classmates. He became her protector and her friend. One day, even he turned against her for reasons she did not understand. Judith left to attend University in Paris. Prior to leaving, her grandmother told her to never return to their village. Even though Judith is puzzled, she agrees to this. However, the circumstances necessitate her return. The contents of her grandmother's will are shocking and Judith is determined to uncover what motivated her grandmother's final wishes.With skill and sensitivity the author draws the reader into both the past and present lives of Judith. As Judith goes from room to room of her former home we are there with her. The detail and description of Judith's memories provide a vivid picture of the person she became. It is sometimes said that our memories may define us. When Judith learns the truth about her grandmother's reasons for the contents of the will she realizes her past was not exactly what she thought it was. She has to learn who she is and where does she go from here? This both a moving and memorable book. I recommend reading it.I received this book free of charge from Pixel Hall Press and I give this review of my own free will.

  • Nancy
    2019-07-16 11:21

    Life always seems to have an uncanny way of revealing itself over time. This is a compelling and poignant story that touched on everything from love and hate, to prejudice and compassion, and did so in a totally engaging way. "Jo Joe" definitely stimulated my thinking about a number of personal, as well as societal issues. As I followed Judith's (Jo's) confrontation and resolution of these issues, I also attempted to confront and resolve them. The book in and of itself is haunting. It's haunted me ever since I read it. It should make a great book for book clubs to discuss. I've discussed it with myself over and over. Love and loss. Love reignited. Tainted memories. Forgiveness. You will carry the well developed characters of Black Bear around in your heart and soul for quite some time after reading "Jo Joe".While absorbing the story, I hated Wayne and all of his friends. I loved Jo. I loved A.H. I loved Rebecca and David. I hated Black Bear. I loved Black bear. I hated the school house and loved that it burned to the ground! I hated the hate, rage, the bigotry, and the fear. I loved the love, the laughter, and the goodness. I hated the fact that Jo lost her love for Black Bear, and loved the fact that she regained it. Definitely inviting you to react to, and interact with all of the characters in the story, "Jo Joe" will surely arouse your feelings, allowing you to find yourself through Judith, as she finds herself once again, through Black Bear.

  • Josie
    2019-07-14 07:20

    The novel is powerful, intentionally small in scope – it’s about the circumstances that have made Judith (Jo) who she is. This book would be a good choice for reading groups.Jo Joe takes place in Black Bear, Pennsylvania, a small somewhat isolated, mostly white, mostly Christian community in the Poconos. The main character, Judith Ormond, is the half Afro-French (by way of Senegal) and half American Jewish granddaughter of beloved long-time community members, the Schmoyers. She comes to live with them as an adolescent, after her mother’s death. She leaves Black Bear after finishing high school and does not return until the death of her grandmother. Each chapter of the novel represents each of the eight days that Judith spends in Black Bear working to settle her grandmother’s estate. During the course of the novel we learn about the extreme prejudice, hatred, and brutality that the young Judith endured during her time in Black Bear, her relationships with her grandparents, and the loss of her friendship with best friend Joe. In the present, we find that the town is a bit more diverse but the presence of a white supremacist separatist group make it clear that the town still is still steeped in bigotry. The novel had Judith facing her relationships with the community, her grandparents and Joe in both the past and present.

  • Babus Ahmed
    2019-07-21 11:02

    Judith Ormond returns to Black Bear, Pennsylvania after receiving a message telling her the Grandmother needs her. Her Grandmother Martha, has been battling a terminal illness for quite a while but didn't want Judith informed. Judith returns after her demise and find Black Bear the oppressive and hostile community she left seventeen years ago, however there have been notable changes in the community in this time and Judith is forced to look at her own attitudes when dealing with ghosts of her past. This hard-hitting and emotionally driven story of a girl who didn't feel she ever fitted in, left me speechless. I could relate to the hurt, anger and frustration Judith harbours from childhood, the very same emotions which proliferate in her own psyche and limit her in ways she doesn't realise until she is back in Black Bear. How many of us harbour same misconceptions, prejudices and fear? All in an effort to protect ourselves from our deepest fears but ultimately arming us with the same distrust we experience from others. I loved this story because ultimately it allows for people and communities to have flaws but to work overall in the best interest of those living within. Another compelling story that resonated deeply with me from Sally Wiener Grotta; a master storyteller.

  • Gill Chedgey
    2019-07-06 04:02

    Jo Joe by Sally Weiner GrottaThis was an e-book from LibraryThing.There are two aspects of this book that really stood out for me; one was the cinematographic descriptions.Right from the start of the book I could see the landscapes and the people and the events unfold as if I were watching a film. And it made me think that I would love to see this story on the big screen. The second and dominant aspect was the book’s ability to challenge our preconceptions of what racism and prejudice is really all about. I’m not one for going down the spoilers route when I’m reviewing books so suffice to say the character who is the victim of prejudice and discrimination is also in possession of prejudice which dictates their thoughts and actions. The final dénouement, whilst never resolving the wider aspects of prejudice does show how an individual can confront their own bigotry and overcome it.This is a deceptive book, you can get swept up in the narrative of the story and then the full impact and depth of the themes dealt with in the book really hit you.It is well worth reading.

  • Jonel Boyko
    2019-07-13 08:17

    Grotta tackles some very tough subjects in a realistic and heartrending manner. She evokes multiple emotions throughout this novel. She has the ability to make you laugh and to make you cry with her amazing abilities as a storyteller. As a reader you are drawn into this fantastic world. The main character in this novel is extremely well put together. Grotta takes the time to introduce you to every part of her character. I love how you really get into the main character`s head. You are able to experience life from her point of view. The supporting cast is also very well put together. Each is individually developed to suit their role in the novel. Grotta makes sure that you get to know everyone that you meet in the story, even if they aren`t still with us. It leads to a very realistic and all-encompassing feel throughout the story. Overall this is a very insightful and emotional novel. With this well written novel Grotta takes you on a lifelong journey that you won`t soon forget. Please note that I received this novel free of charge from the author in exchange for an honest review.

  • followbooks
    2019-06-30 08:16

    Jo Joe was a really great book that we highly recommend. Featured in the fictional town of Black Bear, Pennsylvania, Jo Joe follows a very courageous and misunderstood woman, Judith Ormand as she is forced to face the demons from her past. After hearing the sad news of her Grandmother's passing, Judith returns home to a place she had vowed to never go back to. A place where she was betrayed by her best friend, by most in the town itself, and where she was brutally raped. Struggling to cope with being home she spends her week back trying to tie up loose ends and quickly deal with her Grandmother's estate - but as layers from her past slowly reveal themselves she finds herself faced with the ones she had never wanted to see again.Jo Joe by Sally Wiener Grotta is currently being featured on our website http://www.followbooks.comTo read our full review visit: support this author with your own review!

  • Ameise1
    2019-06-26 12:10

    It is an amazing perceptive story about Judith a woman in her thirties which's ancestry is manifold and therefore has to fight for her place among the people she should belong to. Because of her grandma's death she is going back to the little village where she has sworn never to set foot again. Judith is black, Jewish, French, American and African. She lived there during her teenage and had to flee after she has been raped.Back at the village with a lot of hate and unsolved problems she met all her predators, the hatred, the unspoken truth but also some new people which are giving her support and love. She has to learn that her grandma was a person which has been pulling the strings of everybody especially those of her beloved ones and unfortunately not for the best of them. Nobody could stop her and a cousin backed her. Finally, he is telling all her failures to Judith.It was a fast-paced reading and gripping until the very last page.(4 1/2 stars)

  • Rachelle
    2019-07-01 09:18

    ***TRIGGER WARNING: Rape scene and attempted rape scene***This beautifully written piece of fiction reads as though it's the author's own memoir. There were several instances in which I thought Judith was the author, not Sally Wiener Grotta.Join Judith Ormand, a biracial woman who returns to the small town that she grew up in, Black Bear, Pennsylvania, a town of biogtry and hatred. Judith is back in town for her grandmother's funeral, where she must confront not only the prejudices of other villagers but the also the prejudices that she didn't realize she held against the people of Black Bear. The ending to this ultimately humbling tale brought tears to my eyes. I am eager to check out Wiener Grotta's husband's companion novella, Honor.

  • Rhonda Lomazow
    2019-07-01 06:28

    Jo joe is a heartwrenching bookthat unfolds as a mystery.Why was Judith summoned back to Black bear a small town in the Poconos 17years after her grandmother told her never to return.a town where as a mixed race child black &Jewish on her French fathers side white Christian on her mother's.she faced severe racial prejudice.where her best friend Joe a gentle giant had turned on her&became one of her tormentors.why after years of her grandmother showing Joe contempt does she leave him & his children a large part of her estate.I could not put this'd book down every page brought a new surprise a new shock.a beautifully written emotionally rich book.

  • Jennifer Zuna
    2019-06-29 11:28

    This was truly a very emotional novel. There were happy moments when she reflected on memories of time spent with her grandparents or Joe, then tear jerking moments when you read all that she'd been through. My favorite character is Joe. Even though she openly made known how much she disliked him, he took it, never setting the record straight because it would have made her grandmother look bad. That takes a lot of strength and character. This was a wonderful book, one I'm thrilled that I had a chance to read!

  • James Kendrick
    2019-06-21 10:11

    Without giving an spolers, Jo Joe is a wonderfully told story of a woman forced to come back to her childhood home. She learns many things during this action-packed visit, that it's possible to be bigoted while suffering at the hands of bigotry, that things are sometimes not what they seem, and that tolerance is a dish served out equally. Absolutely loved this book, read it in one day.Thank you Sally for writing this book.

  • Dorothy Resnick
    2019-07-12 05:07

    This is an excellent book. It held my attention and challenged my thinking. Each character was unique and had a special story. I can't wait to discuss it with my book club. It was an easy, yet a complicated situation.

  • Carla
    2019-07-17 11:05

    What an amazing and moving book. I love when you finish reading a book but it stays with you. Highly recommend it!

  • Melanie_O
    2019-07-10 09:07

    From the beginning to halfway through this book, it would have been a three-star for me. But damn.. how everyting evolved towards the end.. wow. I could not lay this book down anymore. I was curious about the story what happened to Joe but i never expected the role Gramma had on this. The characters of this book were really well done. I really liked the parts with Gramps and Joe. The main protagonist Judith was a bit annoying sometimes. There were tough times behind her but the way she handled everything when she returned was not always logical to me. For example was there no desire to question the relationship between Joe and Gramma - she just assumed something and did not bother to look through this at the beginning. I feel sorry about the missing future which Jo - Joe could have had.

  • Katherine
    2019-07-08 11:26

    Jo Joe is an intense, well written and highly effective novel about prejudice, the racial prejudice of a small rural and very white community, and the prejudices of the central character, Judith Ormund, a woman of mixed African, French, Jewish and American Moravian Protestant descent, written in the first person singular from Judith's point of view. The spirit eroding effect of prejudice, fear and hatred is vividly portrayed in the rage and loathing of the central character, Judith Ormund, known in her childhood as Jo. So completely does her recollection of extreme abuse by a few teenagers obsess her that her view of her surroundings and many of the people she encounters on her return to the home of her teen years is poisoned, leading her to behave hatefully and rouse hate in others. Jo Joe is an effective lesson in why wrath is one of the seven deadly sins. We are none of us safe from prejudiced hatred. I myself have experienced it. But, for other reasons, I could not read this book with the distance most readers will bring to it. While the name of the rural village is fictionalized, the place names of surrounding areas are not, and the locale is where I happen to live. While racial prejudice may exist anywhere, the depiction of this rural Pennsylvania region, through the eyes of Judith Ormund, is quite the reverse of what I've seen in my thirty and more years here in Wayne County. It's true there are very, very few people of color. When a Black Muslim family moved in, their children wearing their distinctive head wear to school,it conflicted with a recent rule that the students could not wear hats in class. (A rule intended to curb the fashion among some boys for wearing baseball caps at all times.) Rose, the children's mother, met with the principal and explained the religious nature of their head wear. Not only were her children permitted to wear their caps and scarves, Rose was asked to speak in each classroom on the beliefs of Islam. A very dark skinned Indian family moved here from South America, buying a farm and expressing their desire to have animals for their children. Sheep, ducks and chickens, and a pure bred basset hound were brought them as gifts. As with Rose's family, the community did their best to make them feel welcome. When the Indian husband was found dead in his car, then the wife was discovered stabbed to death, the FBI called Rose, assuming this was a local hate crime and wanting her information on racism here. Rose emphatically told the FBI agents that she had more genuine help from her neighbors and the Wayne County community than she did from her own family. It was later discovered the Indian couple was involved in drug trafficking; they had brought their fate with them from South America.I've wondered why this area is so welcoming to outsiders, myself included, as well as those who are visibly or culturally different. Churches, schools and the volunteer fire department are the principal social centers, and the churches always have been deeply and passionately involved with missionary work. Helping people who are different is actually part of the local culture -- whether those in need are in Africa, South America or Asia. A church here had for pastor a black political activist who was endangered in his own country. His English was not understandable but his congregation was proud to have him.When I came here, I deplored sight of the occasional wreck of a mobile-home surrounded by decaying cars, discarded furniture, cheap plastic toys, and a few chickens pecking in the road way. I've learned that the inhabitants of these seeming dead-ends of humanity are often your most helpful and kind neighbors. Perhaps their particular readiness to help -- to fix a fence, or take care of your sheep while you're away -- is their way of countering the prejudice they fear from outsiders who judge them by their way of life. I've learned not to draw conclusions from how a person looks or what their home looks like. (The local term is "living like a water buffalo" and it's no reason to think ill of someone, how they live is their right. Just as choosing not to join the race for upward mobility is their right.) It's Wayne County, the Wayne County that Grotta darkly fictionalizes, that's taught me to look only to how a person acts, not how they look or how tidily they live, before I form an opinion. While Grotta shows the reader the kindness and neighborliness of the villagers of Black Bear, she shows it through the suspicious and embittered eyes of Judith. What remains with the reader? There are three ways, principally, that a writer influences a reader's view: what the narrator says, what a character says and does, and what other characters say and do. Grotta, by having the narrator and the main character united in one, sacrifices most of her opportunity for objectivity -- while strengthening the impact of the book and of her principal character's prejudices, but reinforcing the prejudices many of her readers may bring with them regarding rural Americans. My concern is that the over all effect of Jo Joe, though not intended by the author, may be to confirm prejudices. And in this case, prejudices against the very people who - in my own life experience with them -- least deserve it. Jo Joe has been very painful for me to read. Although quite capably written, I can bring myself to give it only four stars on the grounds that the negative impression of the theme so far outweighs the positive.

  • Christie
    2019-06-26 07:06

    I was given “Jo Joe” from Pixel Hall Press for the purpose of participating in a book tour for this book. Excited, a little nervous and just curious about participating in my first book tour hosted by www.booksnifferreviewtours, I was more than happy to agree to the book.*****Author, Mrs. Sally Wiener Grotta, pens a fictional novel to resemble the memoirs of Judith Ormand. The story takes place in the small village of Black Bear, Pennsylvania. Judith if returning back to Black Bear after a seventeen year absence after her beloved grandmother passes away. Taken by surprise that her grandmother has passed, Judith knows that her return to Black Bear will bring back suppressed memories, deep-rooted emotions of herself as well as others and confrontations on a past that she has run away from.Pulling into Dutch’s service station, an “enormous man, with his unkempt, thinning, dark blonde hair and that beer belly protruding over his low jeans” starts what becomes the avalanche of emotions for Judith. Joe Anderson is the new owner of Dutch’s. Shocked that the man who once was her best friend, the epitome of good looks and her crush; has just let himself go.After arriving at the farm of her grandparents, Judith realizes that since she was last there seventeen years ago, not much has changed. The mezuzah is still on the door where grandpa placed it. Every bit of furniture is where it’s always been. The only thing different is that the sounds of her past are missing. It’s the quiet that sparks the flashback of memories that overwhelm Judith from the moment she walks through the door.Setting herself on a strict one week deadline to get everything handled with the will, Judith walks in with a set mind of selling off everything. Her past in Black Bear was too traumatic to want to return. Plus, she had promised her grandmother that before she left for Paris, she wouldn’t return, ever. Confused, hurt and feeling betrayed by her grandmother, she agrees to never return. So, is she even making the right choice by returning?The town folk response to learning of her return is mixed. With Judith being the only black citizen while she was growing up, she is subjected to the prejudice behaviors of many. If it wasn’t for Joe Anderson, she wouldn’t have had a friend her entire childhood. But it’s one pivotal moment in her past that changes everything between the two. The once friend now becomes distanced and uncaring. Confused and not knowing what she has done, Judith is left to deal with the horrific actions of people on her own.Now that she has no ties other than property, Judith knows that she has no reason to stay. However, everything changes when she finds out that in her grandmothers will, property is left to the one person who betrayed her. Knowing that something’s wrong with the will, Judith is hell-bent on discovering why.*****In “Jo Joe” no topic is taboo. I’m 42 and grew up in Fort Worth, TX. I know how racial indifference can impact individuals. Never understanding how one can be judged by the color of their skin and religion just amazes me. It’s unfortunate that many people had to endure this kind of treatment. However, its part of our county’s past. This behavior still goes on despite the progress we’ve made in so many other areas.The author does a great job at tackling everything from race, religion, and social economical standings. This book will make any reader stop and look at how they judge their fellow neighbors. It’s something that we all are guilty of at some point in our life. With a heavy message wrapped up in a wonderful but painful story, this book will be one that sparks many discussions amongst many people. Its stories like this that make us open our eyes to the world around us and realize that we all aren’t perfect.

  • Courtney
    2019-07-07 07:04

    Judith got out of Black Bear a long time ago, promising herself she would never return. But, when she receives an anonymous phone call telling her that her grandmother needs help, it seems that a return to Black Bear is on the horizon. Judith was doing work in Africa when she received the call, so by the time she received the message, her grandmother had already passed away. Being the last surviving member of her family, she is forced to return to Black Bear and face the place that didn’t accept her as a child, and face the boy who broke her heart. Judith was the only black girl in Black Bear where she grew up. She was also the only Jewish girl. Being a minority in a predominately white town caused a lot of problems for her in her childhood. There were racial slurs thrown her way, and she was abused by other school kids. This was when Joe came into the picture. He became her protector. He warned the other kids to not hurt or touch her, or there would be hell to pay. He was one of the strongest kids at school, Judith felt safe when he was around. They started spending most of their time together. He came home with her every day after school and spent more time there than he did at his own place. They became really close and came up with a secret name for themselves – Jo Joe. Jo being Judith’s initials. Joe liked that it was similar to his own name. When Judith arrives back in Black Bear, she encounters Joe right away, which sort of sets the tone for her visit. She runs into a lot of people from her past. Some of them provide a friendly face, while others draw up bad memories. While trying to sort through her Gramma’s affairs, she stumbles upon the shocking realization that her Gramma had left a significant amount of money plus their family’s hunting lodge to Joe Anderson. Judith cannot fathom why a man that her Gramma did not trust would end up with anything after her passing. She must then try to find out what changed during the seventeen years that she was away from Black Bear and come to terms with the fact that some people aren’t always what they seem to be. Even though it is a major part of the novel, the funeral section seemed a little too long. It started dragging on a little bit, and I felt it could have been shortened. The chapters are all pretty long, but there are breaks in the chapters that help to keep it flowing instead of being a brick wall of text. It helped split up the story nicely. The writing was brilliantly detailed. This novel relies a lot on the memories of Judith to tell the story, and I felt like I was remembering everything with here. There was just enough detail to explain everything without having it drag on endlessly. I could picture everything in my head while reading it. The one I had was some of the conversations. For most of the novel, the character voices and conversations had a really nice flow and they added a lot to the story. But, at times, they seemed a little forced. It usually happened when Judith and Rebecca had long, on-going conversations. They would start out going nicely, and then towards the middle, they would get really formal and seemed un natural. By the end of the dialogue, they were usually back to conversing at a good flow. It through me off a little bit, but it was easy to get by it. 3/5 stars. The story was really interesting, but I feel like it could have been shortened a bit.

  • Maria
    2019-06-29 09:08

    On the surface, Jo Joe seems to be a simple story about a woman returning to her hometown after the death of her grandmother. But it becomes clear, very early on in the novel, that in fact this book is so much more complex, fascinating and....complicated than you could have ever imagined.Jo Joe focuses on our heroine, Judith, who returns to her hometown of Black Bear after her grandmother dies (unexpectedly, to her, although practically everyone else saw it coming). Gramma's death forces Judith to go back to a place she abandoned years ago -- to memories that haunt her, people that treat her differently because of the color of her skin, and a love she tried to forget long ago.What I loved about Sally Wiener Grotta's novel is that it instantly draws you into the town of Black Bear. Grotta has an amazing writing style and her descriptions of the people and their homes have this wonderful ability to transport you to this small-town lifestyle. Everyone knows one another; everyone's in each others business (of course) and in the end, you feel like you could've lived in Black Bear your entire life. It's also, as you'll discover, a town where most of the people are trying to be good -- but good intentions only go so far; and where some are just plain evil.What I also loved about this novel is that it was not predictable. Judith did not run right back to the her lost love; the townsfolk didn't change their attitudes too much since Judith left as a young girl; the evil characters were believable and really freaking scary (not something I expected to find in this novel; and the revelations Judith will have about her grandmother are completely real and incredibly emotional.You should definitely pick this book up and give it a chance. Think of it as your chance to try out a new town -- a way to travel to Black Bear, Pennsylvania. Where the town is not a perfect cast of characters (by any means!), but they're real. Between the issues of race, long lost memories, family and "home" -- this is not one to be missed.

  • DubaiReader
    2019-07-18 12:18

    A Black Bear novel.I really enjoyed Sally Weiner Grotta's style of writing and was quickly immersed in this novel, not least because of its underlying issue of race relations. Unfortunately, what let it down, for me, was the slightly weak and rather predictable denouement. Although I had to wait to see how the author would actually achieve her ending, it was becoming obvious by half way through, in which direction we were heading.Judith, or Jo, was the daughter of a black Jewish father and a white Christian mother. When the marriage split up, she remained with her mother until her mother's death, when she moved to an insular Pennsylvanian town, known as Black Bear, to live with her grandparents. Here, her colour and religious views made her was the butt of jokes and bullying. However, her childhood would have been even more difficult, had it not been for the support of Joe, a well built boy whom no-one messed with.So why did she leave Black Bear, vowing never to return? And who sent the anonymous letter, calling her back when her grandmother died?Judith returned with just a week to clear out the house and put it on the market so she could leave it, and all the unpleasant memories behind her for ever. Each of the chapters covers a day in the week, as she races to complete her task.There were some wonderful characterisations and the people of Black Bear felt very real. I also enjoyed the interesting descriptions of Jewish rituals, particularly surrounding the death of Judith's grandmother.The author and her husband are both writers, using Black Bear as the centre of their novels and short stories. I find this a fascinating concept and will certainly be interested to read more of their work in the future.